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What is a Pap Smear?
A Pap Smear is a screening test, which should be performed annually, that is used to detect changes in cervical cells. A speculum is inserted into the vagina. The cervix is gently scraped, and the specimen received is sent to a lab for evaluation. On average, about fifty-five million Pap Smears are performed each year in the United States, with about 3.5 million producing abnormal results. Cells on the cervix surface may appear abnormal, but are rarely cancerous and will, in most cases, correct themselves without further treatment.
If your Pap Smear results do show an abnormality, your doctor will contact you. A colposcopy may be performed if the test shows one of the following results:
Dysplasia - Not cancerous cells, but could develop into cancer if it goes untreated. The cells look abnormal under the microscope, but do not invade the healthy tissue that surrounds it.
Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (SIL) - The presence of thin, flat cells on the outer surface of the cervix. This can be low-grade, which is recognized by changes in the shape, size, and number of cells on the surface of the cervix; or high-grade, which indicates the presence of pre-cancerous cells on the surface of the cervix.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) - An abnormal growth of cells that form on the cervix surface. CIN, along with a number from one to three on your test results tells your doctor the degree of thickness of abnormal cells on the cervix.
Atypical Squamous Cells - Unclear test results. Not normal, but not abnormal either.
If further treatment is needed based on your results, it is very important that you receive it. While cancer may not be detected initially, it could develop into cervical cancer if it goes untreated.
Abnormal Pap Smear results can be caused by a number of things: