An Abnormal Smear The cervical smear test (Pap test)
is designed to pick up minor changes before any serious problems
develop. One in twelve smears are not normal and therefore,
it is not unusual to have an abnormal result. It is extremely
rare for any abnormality to be cancer.
Nearly all abnormal smears show no more than minor changes
in cells on the cervix (the neck of the womb). These changes
act as an early warning sign that over time, cervical cancer
may develop if the minor changes are not managed appropriately.
It is extremely rare for a woman to develop cancer if they
have regular smears and colposcopy when appropriate.
What does the result
An abnormal smear result usually means that minor changes
exist in the cells on the cervix. These are called dyskaryosis
or dyskaryotic cells.
In many cases these minor changes return to normal on their
own. But sometimes the changes become worse and could lead
to cancer in the future. In such cases it is necessary to
have an examination called colposcopy
which could show that treatment is needed. Treatment is simple
and 95 per cent effective.
It usually takes many years for cancer of the cervix to develop.
So it is very rare, especially in women who have regular smears,
for an abnormal result to indicate that cancer has arisen.
After an abnormal smear
Most abnormal smears show borderline
changes or mild
dyskaryosis. These are small
changes that often return to normal by themselves. The changes
are not cancer, and in most cases do not lead to cancer in
the future. It is safe to give the small changes a chance
to return to normal by themselves without having immediatetreatment. In some cases a smear will be repeated and in other
cases you will be referred for an investigation calledcolposcopy.
For some women their result will show moderate
or severe dyskaryosis.
It is unlikely that you have cancer. However, these changes
are less likely to return to normal by themselves and usually
need treatment. To decide whether you needtreatment,
a further examination – calledcolposcopy
– is carried out to investigate the cervix in detail.
It is important that these changes are checked now, in case
they become more serious in the future.