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      An Abnormal Smear
   
  Thomas Ind, Gynaecological Surgeon.   thomas ind
    Gynaecological Surgeon Royal Marsden and
St George’s Hospitals
   
51 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9SW
Tel: 020 7201 2666; Fax 020 7823 1499
  Sloane Street Gynaecology Clinic  
 
   
 
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 mean?
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 immediate treatment. In some cases a smear will be repeated and in other cases you will be referred for an investigation called colposcopy. 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 need treatment, a further examination – called colposcopy – 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.
 
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