After the Pap smear
After your pap smear, you can continue with your day as normal without any restrictions about your day without any restrictions.
The samples are transferred to a laboratory where a cytologist (a person trained to detect abnormal cells) will examine your sample. The cytologist work in cooperation with a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in cellular abnormalities). The pathologist is responsible for the final diagnosis.
Ask your health care practitioner when you can expect the results of your pap smear. In some cases, your health care practitioner will only contact you if something of concern is found or if it’s determined that you need further testing.
Normal results If only normal cervical cells were discovered during your pap smear, your test will then be negative for presence of cancer cells. You won’t need any further treatment or testing until you’re due for your next pap smear and pelvic examination.
Abnormal results If abnormal or unusual cells were discovered during your pap smear, this means that you have a positive result or the presence of cancer cells were noted.
Here are some terms your doctor might use and what your next course of action might be:
Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS). Squamous cells are thin and flat and grow on the surface of a healthy cervix. In the case of ASCUS, the pap smear reveals slightly abnormal squamous cells, but the changes don’t clearly suggest that precancerous cells are present. With the liquid-based test, your health care practitioner can reanalyze the sample to check for the presence of viruses known to promote the development of cancer, such as some types of human papillomavirus (HPV). [see: STI’s > Genital Warts) If no high-risk viruses are present, the abnormal cells found as a result of the test aren’t of great concern. If worrisome viruses are present, you’ll need further testing.
Squamous intraepithelial lesion. This term is used to indicate that the cells collected from the pap smear may be precancerous. If the changes are low-grade, the size, shape and other characteristics of the cells suggest that if a precancerous lesion is present, it’s likely to be years away from becoming a cancer. If the changes are high-grade, there’s a greater chance that the lesion may develop into cancer much sooner. Diagnostic testing is necessary.
Atypical glandular cells. Glandular cells produce mucus and grow in the opening of your cervix and within your uterus. Atypical glandular cells may appear to be slightly abnormal, but it’s unclear whether they’re cancerous. Further testing is needed to determine the source of the abnormal cells and their significance.
Squamous cancer or adenocarcinoma cells. The cells collected from the pap smear appear so abnormal that the pathologist is almost certain a cancer is present in the vagina, cervix or, occasionally, the uterus. Squamous refers to cancers arising in the flat surface cells of the vagina or cervix. Adenocarcinoma refers to cancers arising in glandular cells. If such cells are found, your health care practitioner will recommend additional examinations.
If your pap smear is abnormal, your doctor may perform a procedure called colposcopy using a special magnifying instrument (colposcope) to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva. He or she may take a tissue sample (biopsy) from any areas that appear abnormal. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis and for a definitive diagnosis.