An abnormal result means that the Pap test found cell changes on your cervix.
What causes an abnormal result
Sometimes infections caused by bacteria or yeast can cause cells to look abnormal under a microscope. However, most often, abnormal Pap test results are caused by HPV.
What should you do next
Hearing that you have abnormal Pap test results can be upsetting. But the most important thing you can do for yourself is to go for follow-up appointments to find out if the cells have returned to normal or if they need to be treated, so cancer doesn’t develop.
The next steps depend on the type of abnormal results you have.
- If you have low-grade (minor) cervical cell changes and your Pap test sample was not tested for high-risk HPV: your healthcare provider will repeat your Pap test in 6 to 12 months. Minor cell changes often go away on their own, and if your cells return to normal, you won’t need treatment.
- If you’re 30 years or older, and the lab sees cell changes that are hard to read, your Pap test sample will be tested for high-risk HPV (called HPV reflex testing): If HPV is found, your healthcare provider will refer you for a specialized test called a colposcopy. If HPV is not found, you won’t need any further tests until your next regular Pap test.
- If you have low-grade (minor) cervical cell changes that don’t go away, OR if you have high-grade (moderate/severe) changes: your healthcare provider will likely refer you to a specialist (gynecologist) for a colposcopy to examine your cervix more closely.
If you need follow-up, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: abnormal cells found through Pap tests are rarely cancer. Abnormal cells can be monitored and treated if needed so that cancer doesn’t develop.
Add resource – “Making sense of abnormal results” brochure http://screeningforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Brochure-Making-Sense-of-Abnormal-Pap-Test-Results.pdf