In rechecking Pap smears of 84 women whose initial results were found to be abnormal with the ThinPrep smear, researchers found only a third of them had abnormal cervical cells suggesting they were infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV)
The ThinPrep method of collecting samples from Pap smears has been found to be as good as, if not better than, the conventional Pap smear collection methods. And it is used by most doctors and about 80% of diagnostic laboratories.
Hormones the Culprit
“It’s more common in women using birth control pills, but these false results can occur with any condition in which the woman had a predominance of certain types of female hormones – pregnancy, taking hormone replacement therapy, and even being in certain phases of her cycle,” says Gerald Nuovo, MD, professor of pathology and director at cytology at Ohio State University Medical Center.
Nuovo believes the inaccurate findings result from the nature of ThinPrep, which has gained in popularity in recent years because it is more sensitive than other tests at identifying cancerous cells. Along with the SurePath Pap test, ThinPrep is a newer, liquid-based preparation test. Rather than simply smearing the sample onto a slide, the collection device is rinsed in a vial and sent to the lab for the slide to be prepped and evaluated.
The problem with the older tests is that there were so much blood and inflammation in the smear that the pathologist couldn’t see all the cells,” Nuovo tells. “With ThinPrep and SurePath, that problem has been solved.“
Understanding Your Results
Stay calm. Many women become very anxious when they discover that the results of their Pap tests are “abnormal,” but at this stage, there is no reason to panic. In most cases, “abnormal” test results do not indicate cervical cancer. You’ll have to follow up with your doctor, and perhaps undergo further testing, in order to determine why the Pap smear showed suspicious cell changes on your cervix.