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Things That Can Cause an Abnormal Pap Smear

Things That Can Cause an Abnormal Pap Smear

Women 21 years and older with a history of being sexually active need pap tests as part of routine women’s health care. The Pap test screens for cell changes on your cervix, which may indicate active cervical cancer or increased risk.

While starting any type of cancer screening in your early twenties might seem intimidating, Pap tests happen for a reason. Detecting cervical cell changes early means you have better chances of diagnosing and alleviating the underlying issue with treatment. 

Our team at Princeton Sports and Family Medicine, P.C. welcomes you to come to our office for your next Pap test. You can rest assured knowing the multidisciplinary Princeton Sports and Family Medicine office in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is equipped to provide Pap smears and guide you through your next steps if you get an abnormal test result. 

What a Pap test entails

A pap smear isn’t painful or a hassle. During your annual gynecology visit, your provider will use a swab or brush to collect a sample of cells from the surface of your cervix. You might feel a quick pinch or push as we collect the cells, but any sensations are brief and mild. Once collected, the cells are sealed in a sterile container and sent to a lab. If the results are normal, the test should be repeated every three years.

What an abnormal result means

Only around 3.8% of Pap test results are abnormal. While your chances of an abnormal Pap test are low, we encourage you to be educated on what it means if your test result returns abnormal.

Let’s begin with the good news regarding an abnormal Pap test. An abnormal result doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer or that you’ll get it in the future. The majority of abnormal test results indicate vaginal or cervical infections, but additional testing is needed to confirm what’s going on.

Some possible causes of an abnormal Pap smear include the following: 

The next step depends on the findings. We may advise more frequent Pap smears or a referral to a specialist. 

How can I prevent future abnormal Pap smears?

Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, includes several strains, and some increase your risk of cervical cancer. A pap smear can detect an active HPV infection or HPV-related cell changes. Undetected HPV can cause healthy cells to change and become cancerous.

Protection during sexual intercourse is always recommended, and using a condom may reduce your chances of acquiring high-risk HPV. Additionally, the HPV vaccine protects you from nine of the higher-risk strains. 

Our team recommends the vaccine to all patients. You can get it as early as age nine, but you should talk to your physician about your best options if you’re pursuing the vaccine over the age of 26. Our team also advises you to stay up-to-date on Pap tests so we can detect concerning cell changes early. 

Schedule your Pap test today

To schedule your next Pap smear or learn more about cervical cancer risks, call Princeton Sports and Family Medicine, P.C., or request an appointment online at your earliest convenience. 

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