Pap smears are routine aspects of preventive women’s healthcare, and they help professionals catch and treat issues as early as possible. While discovering you’ve had an abnormal pap smear can be unsettling, there are many potential causes behind these results. Many causes are harmless, but even in the case of a serious issue, early detection is the most powerful tool for effective treatment. Here are some causes of positive pap smear results.
What Causes Abnormal Pap Smears?
1. Human Papillomavirus
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is among the most commonly contracted sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, every sexually active person can get it at some point in their lifetime if they don’t receive the HPV vaccine. In many cases, the disease can clear up on its own without causing any issues. In some cases, however, HPV can cause cervical and other cancers.
2. Cervical Dysplasia
Cervical dysplasia is the development of abnormal cells on the lining of the cervix. While it does not indicate cancer, severe dysplasia could lead to cancer if left untreated. Your doctor may recommend a colposcopy to examine the growth of abnormal cells and perform subsequent procedures to remove them if needed.
3. Cervical Cancer
Because there may be no symptoms accompanying cervical cancer, it is often detected through a pap smear. Since it develops slowly, however, tests detecting cervical abnormalities allow for early intervention. Deaths from cervical cancer have declined in the U.S. continuously year-over-year, and most women whose abnormal cells progress into cancer haven’t received a pap test for three to five years prior.
4. STD or Infection
A fungal or bacterial infection, including yeast infections, can yield abnormal tests. STDs such as trichomoniasis can also trigger a positive result. While men typically don’t exhibit symptoms, women may experience itching, discharge, or painful urination. The condition is treatable using antibiotics.
5. Altered Results
In some cases, an abnormal pap smear can be completely innocuous and is caused by factors that can affect the condition of the cervix. For example, being close to the beginning of your cycle, taking a bath, using tampons or suppositories, and having intercourse in the 48 hours before your test could alter its results. It is also recommended that you avoid scheduling your exam when you’ll be on your period.
As a caring OB-GYN serving Putnam, White, and Cumberland counties, TN, Kimberly M Johnson M.D., FACOG understands that receiving the news of an abnormal pap smear can be upsetting. No matter your results, she and her staff will ensure you have all of the answers you need to make informed decisions about your health. From routine screenings to advanced diagnostics using the latest technology, this clinic offers a broad range of services to support women through every stage of life. Like the office on Facebook for more updates, or call (931) 456-5814 to schedule an appointment.