A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a very simple tool that’s designed to detect abnormal cell changes on your cervix. The test itself is very easy. Your OB/GYN simply takes a swab of your cervix, and the cells are examined under a microscope.
Your OB/GYN often performs this test as part of your annual wellness exam while you’re in your childbearing years.
The results of your Pap smear either come back as normal or abnormal. An abnormal test result means that you may have abnormal cell changes on your cervix.
These cell changes are mostly due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted disease, mostly in early adulthood. There are over 150 types of HPV, approximately 40 of which can lead to cancer, which is where the Pap smear comes in.
Abnormal Pap results signal to your OB/GYN that they need to monitor you more closely, which they do by performing a colposcopy. For normal Pap smear results with HPV infection, your doctor will retest you in a year. Tests for other STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also be performed on your Pap smear specimen.
With a colposcopy, your OB/GYN uses a specialised instrument to take a closer look at your cervix. Your doctor may then remove a tiny piece of your cervical tissue for a biopsy.If your results show persistent abnormal cell changes, your OB/GYN may turn to a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove the affected tissue.If you’re showing outward signs of an HPV infection, namely genital warts, the specialist doctor clears those up with a topical medication at the hospital.