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What does it mean if my pap smear is abnormal?

A pap smear is just a screening test; it does not make a diagnosis. A diagnosis is typically made with a simple clinical procedure called colposcopy. Colposcopy involves a longer speculum exam. During this exam, a special scope is used to visualize the cervix closer. Typically, small biopsies are taken to arrive at a diagnosis. There is a spectrum of potential diagnoses. We don't typically find cervical cancer. We very commonly find dysplasia. Dysplasia is a treatable condition which can be a precursor to cervical cancer. It is graded on biopsy as low and high grade. Low grade dysplasia or mild dysplasia will typically resolve on its own over a year or so in a woman with an intact immune system. By contrast, we typically treat a woman who is diagnosed with high grade dysplasia. High grade dysplasia encompasses several diagnoses of increasing severity: moderate dysplasia, severe dysplasia and carcinoma in situ. There are numerous treatments available. The most commonly utilized in our practice is LEEP or (looped electrosurgical excision procedure). This is an outpatient procedure where a small charged loop is used to shave the atypical tissue off the cervix. Some patients may be offered laser surgery or even cryosurgery in the clinic.

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