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Abnormal Pap Smears

Pap Smear

Pap smear or Pap test is conducted as part of a woman's routine health examination, after the age of 21 years. It is not a diagnostic test but is a screening tool used to detect any abnormal cells in the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Pap smears help in early detection of any serious medical conditions such as cervical cancer.

Abnormal Pap smear may indicate the presence of infection or abnormal cells called dysplasia. An abnormal Pap smear may not necessarily denote cancer. These results highlight the requirement of supplementary testing to identify and confirm an underlying problem.

Causes of Abnormal Pap Smear

An abnormal pap smear may indicate any of the following:

  • Inflammation
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection
  • Dysplasia (abnormal cells that may be pre-cancerous)
  • Cancer


Usually, abnormal cells do not produce any symptoms. Moreover, even the presence of HPV in an abnormal Pap smear is asymptomatic. Therefore, a routine Pap smear is beneficial in the early detection of any abnormalities.


Following an abnormal Pap smear, the next step is further testing to confirm the cause of the abnormal cells. In some cases, a repeat Pap smear or test for human papillomavirus (HPV), a major risk factor for cervical cancer, may be recommended. In other cases, colposcopy (microscopic examination of cervix) and cervical biopsy may be recommended.

Depending on the age of the patient and the type of abnormal cells seen at the time cervical biopsy, the doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

Cone biopsy or Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): In this procedure, a segment of cervical tissue including the abnormal cells is removed by specially designed instrumentation.

Abnormal Pap Smear During Pregnancy

A Pap smear during pregnancy is very safe. In case of an abnormal Pap smear, a colposcopy can be performed during pregnancy. However, often, further treatments are delayed until the birth of the baby.

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