Abnormal Pap Test
A Pap test, also called a Pap smear, is a test done during a woman’s pelvic exam to screen for cervical cancer.
Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.
Causes & Risk Factors
An abnormal Pap test means the cells collected show abnormal changes. It does not necessarily mean a woman has cancer. There are many causes for abnormal Pap tests, including infections.
Symptoms & Types
If results are abnormal, a doctor may recommend:
- A repeat Pap test
- A colposcopy – a procedure that uses a high-powered microscope (colposcope) to view the tiny cells on the cervix. A small tissue sample, known as a biopsy, may be removed for closer examination.
Diagnosis & Tests
During the procedure, the doctor gently collects some cells from the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) using a tiny brush. The cells collected are examined under a microscope for changes that may lead to cervical cancer. In some cases they may also be checked for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Living & Managing
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends young women have their first Pap test at 21 years of age.
If a woman was sexually active before age 18, or has special risk factors such as HIV or immune problems, a doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent Pap tests.
Regular Pap tests can help prevent most types of cervical cancer by finding and treating precancerous cells early.