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What Could Trigger An Abnormal Pap Smear Result?

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A Pap smear is an incredibly important screening test that can help detect the presence of precancerous cells in your cervix.

Doctors typically recommend that women between the ages of 21 and 65 receive a Pap smear every three years, and the vast majority of the time the results come back normal. However, for 2-5 percent of women, the results of the screen register as abnormal.

Finding out that you have an abnormal screening result can be scary, but know that a few things besides precancerous cells can trigger an abnormal result. Below, we take a closer look at some of the issues that could trigger an abnormal pap smear result.

Causes Of An Abnormal Pap Smear Test

If your women’s care provider informs you that your Pap smear results came back abnormal, we urge you to take a breath and avoid jumping to a worst case scenario in your head. There are a number of reasons why a Pap smear may come back abnormal, and here’s a look at some of the most common reasons.

  • HPV – The presence of the human papillomavirus is the most common reason why a Pap smear would register as abnormal. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it is the cause of an abnormal Pap smear result more than 90 percent of the time! Because HPV oftentimes presents with mild or no symptoms at all, many women aren’t even aware they have HPV. The condition also tends to clear on its own without causing cancer, but on rare instances it can cause cancerous changes in the cervical cells, which would need to be treated appropriately.

  • Chlamydia – Chlamydia is another sexually transmitted infection that can be present with mild or no obvious symptoms. Chlamydia can trigger an abnormal Pap smear result, and failing to treat the infection with antibiotics can lead to permanent issues for your reproductive system.

  • Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea is a common STI that tends to have some more obvious symptoms than the two above conditions. It typically leads to painful urination and abnormal vaginal discharge, and it too can trigger an unexpected result on a Pap smear. Like chlamydia, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

  • Yeast Infection – Yeast is a fungus that resides in the vagina in very small numbers, but if these yeast cells grow too rapidly, it can lead to a yeast infection. Fluctuating hormone levels or a health condition like diabetes can increase your risk of a yeast infection. This type of infection oftentimes resolves by taking an antifungal medication for 5-7 days, but it can also trigger an abnormal Pap smear result.

  • Menopause – Finally, changes that you experience during menopause can actually trigger an abnormal Pap smear result. As your body undergoes during menopause, your cervical cells can experience changes that mimic precancerous conditions, even though the cells are not cancerous. Additional testing can help to dictate whether the abnormal result you received is actually the result of true precancerous cells.

Pap smears help to save the lives of thousands of women each year, so it’s important that you get your screening every three years if you are over the age of 21. If you learn that you have an abnormal result, know that a few different issues besides cancer could be triggering this abnormal result, and we’ll help get to the bottom of your issue and set you up with whatever care you need. For more information, or for help with a different women’s care issue, reach out to the team at MetroPartners OBGYN today at (651) 770-3320.