A Pap smear (or Pap test) is performed to look for abnormal changes that could indicate the presence of cancer-causing cells. However, that doesn’t mean every abnormal result is an indicator of cancer. In fact, most abnormal Pap test results are not due to cancer, but are caused by other conditions, including yeast infections, hormonal fluctuations, and infections with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S.
If a Pap smear result is abnormal,the doctor may perform a second Pap test to confirm the results of the first or an HPV test to look for infection caused by the human papillomavirus, or a different type of exam called a colposcopy may be performed.
A colposcopy uses a special magnifying instrument and a bright light to see the cervix and other areas inside the vaginal canal so the doctor can look for areas of abnormal tissue that need to be sampled (biopsied) for further analysis.
A colposcopy is performed right in the office and begins like a routine pelvic exam, with the patient lying on her back on the exam table, feet in the “stirrups.” The doctor will insert a lubricated speculum into the vagina to gently widen the vaginal canal, making it easier to see the cervix and the surrounding tissues. The colposcope will be positioned at the opening of the vagina to provide Dr. Smith with a clear view of these areas. A special solution may be applied to the cervix and vaginal walls first to enhance and highlight abnormal tissues so they can be evaluated more easily.
During colposcopy, the doctor may remove a small sample of abnormal tissue (a biopsy) for further evaluation. In those cases, there may be minor spotting or cramping following the procedure, but it will quickly resolve.
If the results of a follow-up testing indicate the abnormal result was caused by cancerous cells on or around the cervix,your doctor will provide you with a referral to an oncologist or a gynecologist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of cervical cancer and other related cancers.
Feel free to email us regarding any scheduling or general questions!