Every year in the United States, about a half million women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, with the disease causing about a quarter million deaths annually. Those numbers are alarming, but they still represent a dramatic decrease from what they were three decades ago, before Pap smear screening became routine.
Today, Pap smears are performed as part of every annual women’s wellness exam, helping women take important steps toward preventing cancer and treating it in its earliest stages. But because these tests are used to detect cancer, getting an abnormal result can be nerve-racking.
As a top-rated gynecologist in Conroe, Texas, Richard Roberts, MD, uses Pap smears to diagnose cancer and other health issues in patients at OB/GYN Associates of Conroe. In this post, learn what happens if you have an abnormal Pap smear and what other conditions could be causing it.
Pap tests are performed as part of a regular pelvic exam. During your exam, Dr. Roberts uses a long-handled swab to collect a sample of cells from your vaginal walls and your cervix, the opening of the uterus. These samples are evaluated under a microscope to look for any cellular changes that could indicate an early stage of cancer.
Although getting an abnormal result can certainly be upsetting, it’s very important to know that while abnormal results can be caused by cervical cancer, usually, these results are due to other, non-cancerous causes, like hormonal changes or infections. In fact, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of abnormal Pap test results.
If your results are abnormal, the next step is to have additional testing to confirm the results. In some cases, Dr. Roberts may perform a second Pap smear to see if the results are the same. Other times, he recommends a colposcopy exam to look for areas of abnormal tissue.
A colposcopy is a type of pelvic exam that uses a special magnifying, lighted scope to see inside your vagina. Dr. Roberts uses the scope to look for areas of abnormal tissue. If he sees unusual tissue, he performs a biopsy to obtain a small sample that can be evaluated under a microscope.
Sometimes, Dr. Roberts uses a special technique called loop electrical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove abnormal tissue. Both these techniques are performed right in the office without any need for anesthesia or any downtime afterward.
If your sample reveals unusual changes associated with cervical cancer, Dr. Roberts will discuss treatment options based on your specific needs.
Pap smears take just a few moments, but the peace of mind they can give is immeasurable.
If it’s been a while since your last Pap test, call 936-756-7788 or book an appointment online with the team at OB/GYN Associates of Conroe today.