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Abnormal pap smears

Pap smears are screening for cervical cancer. Most of the time, pap smears are looking for pre-cancer changes of the cervix, called dysplasia. Dysplasia is not cervix cancer, it is a pre-cancer and may not become cancer but it does have the potential to.


Most pre-cancer changes in the cervix are associated with a virus, called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can be considered the common cold of sex, meaning most people will be exposed to HPV throughout their lifetime. Some people's bodies will be able to fight off the virus and some may not. Some people who have been exposed to HPV may never have a change in their pap smear, whereas others may have a normal pap smear for twenty years and then have an abnormal pap smear that detects HPV. This does not mean there has been a new exposure to the virus, which makes it hard to explain and understand.

To reduce the risk for HPV-related cancers, the HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls ages 11 and 12. However, the vaccine can be given effectively to boys and girls starting at age 9 and extending through age 26.



If a pap smear is abnormal, it may be recommended to have a colposcopy. During a colposcopy, a light and a scope are utilized to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva for certain changes that may suggest the presence of a precancer. If changes are detected, a biopsy may be taken of the cells.

Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)

If it is determined that a procedure would be better than watching the cells for additional change, a LEEP procedure may be performed. During a LEEP, a wire loop heated by electric current is used to cut away a thin layer of abnormal tissue. Removing the abnormal tissue allows for healthy tissue to grow.


If someone is done having children, a hysterectomy may be considered as a treatment option for recurring abnormal pap smears.

If you have had an abnormal pap smear, the gynecology team at Crossing Rivers Health Center for Specialty Care encourages you to make an appointment. Treatment options are available. Together, we can determine the best option for you.

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