Pap smears: No one loves them. It’s not fun to feel exposed, have a doctor insert tools into your vagina while your feet are stuck in stirrups. No, it’s no woman’s favorite part of life, yet the Pap smear is an essential test for maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
The Pap smear is your gynecologist’s way of making sure you don’t have any suspicious tissue changes in your cervix, vagina, or vulva. At New England Women’s Healthcare, our expert OB/GYNs take care to make sure patients feel comfortable and educated, and part of that is helping our patients understand what it means to get an abnormal Pap smear result — and what to do next.
Understanding your results
There are a variety of abnormal Pap smear results. The most common is ASCUS, or “abnormal squamous cells of undetermined significance.” This basically means that your Pap smear came back with some funny-looking cells, but the test couldn’t determine why they looked that way.
Your OB/GYN thoroughly explains your abnormal result and lets you know what you need to do next. Almost always, the next step is to schedule a follow-up appointment with your OB/GYN, during which you undergo an additional test to find out the cause of the abnormal Pap smear result.
What to do after abnormal Pap smear results
First things first: Don’t panic. An abnormal Pap smear result doesn’t always mean that you have gynecological cancer. However, to make sure you don’t — and to check for other health complications — your OB/GYN will likely order a colposcopy, a test that closely examines your cervix, vagina, and vulva.
A colposcopy is similar to a Pap smear in that you lie face-up with your feet up in supports. Your OB/GYN inserts a speculum to get a visual of your cervix, and then places a magnifying tool up close to your vulva. Your doctor checks for abnormal cells by applying a solution to your vagina and cervix — the solution highlights abnormal cells, from which your doctor takes a sample (called a biopsy).
The cell sample is tested to find out why the cells look abnormal. It usually takes a week or so to get your results back, so make sure to ask your doctor when you can expect them, and for a phone number to call if you don’t hear back.
If you’ve recently received abnormal Pap smear results — or you’re due for a Pap smear — schedule an appointment with your provider at New England Women’s Healthcare today. Call our Woburn, Massachusetts, office at 781-243-5777 or request your appointment online. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.