I have posted on this topic before, but it’s something so common I feel it’s worth re-visiting.
Abnormal Pap, what does this really mean? Pap smears are done to assess for changes on your cervix. Ultimately we are looking for any indications of cancer. The biggest culprit of these changes is a virus called human papilloma virus, or HPV. This virus is spread through sex. So here is the deal, if you’ve ever had sex, you’ve very likely come into contact with HPV. Like 80% of people will have the virus in their lifetime. However, most will never know because it usually self resolves. You body will most likely fight the virus off, like a cold, and the cervix will shed and return to normal. As far as men, they don’t even know they carry it because it affects the cervix…and they don’t have one!
When your pap is abnormal then your provider will want to follow up to be sure that it is not progressing or suspicious of becoming cancerous. He or she may want to bring you into repeat the exam or do something called a colposcopy, which is just looking closely at your cervix with a fancy microscope and taking a sample. If there is concern these abnormal changes on your cervix can be removed with either cryotherapy or other methods.
If you have been to your gyno in the past couple years (and I hope that you have), they may have skipped your pap. Now the recommendation is to get a pap every 3 years as long as your previous exams have been normal. The rationale behind this is that cervical cancer is slow growing, therefore yearly screening is no longer recommended. You still need to get your yearly annual.Sorry not sorry!
So if you do have an abnormal pap, don’t panic! This does not mean that you have cervical cancer. It is important that you follow up with your provider so that they can treat and manage you effectively. Also, if you are between the ages of 9-26 talk to your gyno about Gardisil, the vaccine that protects against several strains of HPV.
From your friendly neighborhood nurse