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ABNORMAL CERVICAL SMEARS

Cervical screening aims to identify abnormal cells which can lead to cancer. About seven percent of pap smears show abnormal cells, but an abnormal smear rarely means cancer.

What do abnormal cervical smear test results mean?

It is scary to hear that your Pap test results are "abnormal." But abnormal Pap test results usually do NOT mean you have cancer. Most often there is a small problem with the cervix.

Some abnormal cells will turn into cancer. But most of the time, these unhealthy cells will go away on their own. By treating these unhealthy cells, almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented. If you have abnormal results, to talk with your doctor about what they mean.

My Pap test/smear was "abnormal," what happens now?

There are many reasons for "abnormal" Pap test results. If results of the Pap test are unclear or show a small change in the cells of the cervix, your doctor will probably repeat the Pap test.

If the test finds more serious changes in the cells of the cervix, the doctor will suggest more powerful tests. Results of these tests will help your doctor decide on the best treatment. These include:

  • Colposcopy: The doctor uses a tool called a colposcope to see the cells of the vagina and cervix in detail.
  • Endocervical curettage: The doctor takes a sample of cells from the endocervical canal with a small spoon-shaped tool called a curette.
  • Biopsy: The doctor removes a small sample of cervical tissue. The sample is sent to a lab to be studied under a microscope.

LUMA Cervical Imaging System

The LUMA Cervical Imaging System can help doctors see areas on the cervix that are likely to contain precancerous cells. The doctor uses this device right after a colposcopy. This system shines a light on the cervix and looks at how different areas of the cervix respond to this light. It gives a score to tiny areas of the cervix. It then makes a colour map that helps the doctor decide where to further test the tissue with a biopsy. The colors and patterns on the map help the doctor tell between healthy tissue and tissue that might be diseased.

My Pap test/smear result was a "false positive." What does this mean?

Pap tests are not always 100 percent correct. False positive and false negative results can happen. This can be upsetting and confusing. A false positive Pap test is when a woman is told she has abnormal cervical cells, but the cells are really normal. If your doctor says your Pap results were a false positive, there is no problem.

A false negative Pap test is when a woman is told her cells are normal, but in fact, there is a problem with the cervical cells that was missed. False negatives delay the discovery and treatment of unhealthy cells of the cervix. But, having regular Pap tests boosts your chances of finding any problems. If abnormal cells are missed at one time, they will probably be found on your next Pap test.

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