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Understanding your Pap Test Results

During a Pap test, cells are taken from the cervix and are evaluated at a laboratory. The Pap test is currently the most effective screening test available for finding abnormal cells of the cervix. Without regular Pap tests, abnormal cervical cells will go unnoticed and may develop into cancer if not treated.

How will I know the results of my Pap test?

The SPCC will mail you the results of your test.

What does a normal result mean?

A normal result means that the cervical cells appear normal. You should continue to have regular Pap tests at least every three years.

What does an unsatisfactory result mean?

Sometimes the laboratory has difficulty clearly seeing the cells from your Pap test. This may be because:
• Blood was mixed with the cells
• Cells were not clearly visible because of inflammation
• Not enough cells were collected to give an accurate result
• The slide may have broken in transit to the laboratory

If you have an unsatisfactory result, you should schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor or nurse practitioner. You will be advised to have a repeat Pap test in three months.

What does an abnormal result mean?

An abnormal result means that some of the cells of the cervix look different from normal cells. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will contact you for a follow-up appointment.You may require a repeat Pap test or a colposcopy.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is an examination of the cervix using a microscope called a colposcope.

What happens after a colposcopy?

If low-grade abnormalities are found during colposcopy:
• You may need repeat Pap tests or a repeat colposcopy procedure.
• You should have a Pap test every six to 12 months. When two normal results in a row occur, then you can return to regular Pap test screening.

If high-grade abnormalities are found during colposcopy:
• Treatment will be recommended. Most often these abnormalities can be treated successfully so that cancer does not develop.
• You should keep having Pap tests every year for at least 20 years.

What is the treatment for abnormal cells?

Your doctor or nurse practitioner will discuss the procedures and treatments available including:
• Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP), a surgery that uses a thin wire loop to remove the abnormal tissue
• Laser therapy, which destroys tissue with a laser beam
• Cone biopsy, where a cone-shaped piece of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix
• Cryotherapy, which destroys tissue by freezing

• Having regular Pap test screening is important
• Screening is recommended for people who have no symptoms of cancer
• Abnormal cervical cell changes found with screening can be treated before cancer develops

More information:
Pap tests and Pap test results

SCA Home | Screening | Cervical | Pap Results