Abnormal Pap Smears
A pap smear is a screening test to detect cancerous cells in the cervix. Positive findings result in the pap smear being referred to as abnormal.
Women are recommended to get annual pap smears to aid in the early detection of cancer. Please consult with your physician to learn more.
The term "colposcopy" describes a specialized method of examining the vagina and the cervix using a colposcope, a low-powered microscope. A Colposcopy allows a clinician to examine cells to check for conditions in the vagina and the cervix which are not visible with the naked eye. A Coloposcopic examination is especially helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as abnormal pap smears, genital warts, benign vaginal or cervical growths, or prenatal DES exposure. A colposcopy exam takes about fifteen to thirty minutes and is performed in the office. The exam is usually scheduled between menstrual periods and is no more uncomfortable than a regular pelvic exam. The patient lies on the exam table in the same position as for a pelvic exam. A speculum is inserted into her vagina and a cleansing and staining material is usually swabbed onto the cervix and the vaginal walls. The colposcope is positioned near the opening of the vagina but does not enter the vagina. The clinician then looks through the instrument to see the cervix and vaginal walls.
If an abnormal area is seen during colposcopy, a biopsy may be done. This is a procedure that collects a small sample of tissue for laboratory examination. The biopsy itself is generally performed without anesthesia and women often describe the biopsy procedure as feeling like a mild to moderate menstrual cramp. Minimal bleeding may occur during the procedure and is usually stopped by applying pressure or a topical medication to the biopsy site. A small amount of bleeding may be present after the procedure. Occasionally moderate bleeding may occur. If bleeding becomes similar to a mild to moderate menstrual flow, especially within the first 48 hours after the procedure, a pelvic infection may be suspected. Additional symptoms of a pelvic infection include pelvic pain, fever, and abnormal vaginal discharge. Notify your clinician as soon as possible or contact an emergency room if Student Health is closed. Douching, intercourse and tampons should be avoided for at least 5-7 days from the date of the procedure so that the biopsy sites can heal.
Management You will be scheduled for an appointment to discuss your test results. Management will depend on the diagnosis obtained from the colposcopy and/or biopsies. Some situations may be managed best by close observation to allow time for resolution. Other situations may respond well to surgical therapy.