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What Do Pap Smear Results Mean



By Diane Hanson


If your pap smear results come back abnormal, do not panic. It does not necessarily indicate that you have cervical cancer. It is important for you to understand what do pap smear results mean.


What is a Pap Smear

When you go for a Pap smear procedure, the doctor is looking for signs of human papillomavirus (HPV) and changes in the cells of your cervix which may develop into cervical cancer later.

Most women who develop cervical cancer either have not had a Pap smear test or have not had them regularly. You should get an annual Pap smear (from age 21 to 30) or a biannual Pap smear (from ages 30 to 65) if your results have been normal so far.

It may take 3 weeks to get your Pap smear results, and some of the terms you see may be confusing. The most common system for describing Pap smear test results is the Bethesda System, which uses a number of terms to relate the results. Squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) describes precancerous changes in cervical cells. Using the Bethesda System, your pap smear test results may be:


1. Normal

There are no signs of cancer or precancer.



2. Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)

This is the most common abnormal Pap smear test result indicating the presence of cervical cell changes. The changes are almost always a sign of  an HPV infection but it may indicate precancer is present.



3. Squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL)

This term describes abnormal cervical cell changes are seen and may be a sign of precancer. SIL can be either low grade (LSIL) or high grade (HSIL.) LSIL or HSIL refers to the grade of dysplasia and CIN.


LSIL is indicative of either the presence of HPV or mild precancerous changes; this is a common type of abnormal Pap smear result and usually goes away without any treatment.


HSIL, however, indicates more serious changes in the cervical cell. Carcinoma in situ (CIS) is a severe type of HSIL; and is likely to progress to cervical cancer.



4. Atypical Squamous cells, cannot exclude HSIL (ASCH)

This Pap smear test result means there is uncertainty about whether HSIL is present. Further testing is required.



5. Atypical glandular cells (AGC)

This term suggests precancerous changes to the upper cervix or uterus. Again, further testing is needed.



6. Cancer

Abnormal cervical cells may have spread deeper into the cervix or other tissues.




If you get an abnormal Pap test results, stay calm. Talk to your physician, and have the medical jargon explained in simple terms. Keep in mind that many women with some types of abnormal Pap smear test results do not require treatment, only follow-up testing. Early detection is the key to most effective treatments.



what do pap smear results mean

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