Most Pap smear abnormalities are a simple aberration. By your next test, your body may have easily cleared whatever caused the unexpected result, and you won’t even have to worry. However, when a result comes back outside of certain parameters, or when you have two abnormal Pap smear results in a row, your doctor may order a colposcopy as a follow-up.
At Physicians for Women in Madison, Wisconsin, our team of reproductive health specialists provides a complete range of gynecological care, including well woman exams, triannual Pap smears, and routine colposcopies to check for any signs of precancerous cells in your cervix.
Your Pap smear
Your Pap smear is front line testing for early signs of cervical cancer. Most abnormalities in the cervical cells are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Most women have HPV and experience slight changes in their cervical tissue that don’t adversely affect their health. Others who contract HPV are at risk for extremely active cell multiplication that can lead to cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is highly treatable if detected early, which is what your Pap smear is for; unfortunately, fewer than 7 out of 10 women report having had their last Pap smear on time.
The Pap test
Our office uses the ThinPrep Pap Test, which is commonly accepted as both the most effective and widely used test. You’ll have your Pap smear done typically at the same time as your well woman visit for that year.
Your results will probably come back normal, as most do. If your results come back abnormal, we’ll screen for HPV as a next step. If that test is negative, we’ll make a note in your file and schedule your next Pap a little earlier than usual just to follow up.
If you test positive for HPV after an abnormal Pap smear result, we may recommend a colposcopy based on other health information and your family medical history.
A colposcopy is an up-close inspection of the cervix. We do this procedure in our office, under similar conditions as your Pap smear.
You disrobe from the waist down and lie on the table with your feet up while we insert the speculum to access your cervix. You’ll feel a little pressure, just like you do during a normal gynecological exam.
Instead of the swab, we insert a tiny tube with a little camera on the end of it up into your vagina to magnify our view of your cervix. We add a little solution with a swab to make any abnormalities easier to see. This part might feel very cold, or even sting a tiny bit.
If we see anything that looks suspicious, we’ll take a tiny sample of tissue for a biopsy. This might feel like a sharp pinch, and you could get a sympathetic cramping that feels like a period cramp.
After your colposcopy, you shouldn’t be uncomfortable unless you had a biopsy, in which case you might experience light spotting and mild cramping for a few days.
Depending on the results of your colposcopy, we’ll either determine that there are no concerning cellular abnormalities, or we’ll recommend treatment based on our findings. Remember, none of these tests mean you have cancer, just that your risk is increased and we want to be proactive.
Want more information about colposcopies and cancer prevention? Contact our office at 608-218-4825, or book an appointment online.