Finding out that your pap smear is abnormal can be a frightening experience. Approximately one in seven women have abnormal pap smears. The vast majority of these require no intervention other than close monitoring. If your pap is abnormal, your gyn provider is likely to schedule a colposcopy to further assess the cervix under magnification. Biopsies of the cervix are taken to rule out any significant dysplasia or precancerous change. This procedure causes minimal pain and you can return to normal activities right away. If mild dysplasia is noted, you will simply be followed with frequent pap smears for two years. If moderate or severe dysplasia is noted, your doctor may recommend the LEEP procedure in which a larger segment of the cervix is excised to remove the dysplasia.
Most abnormal paps are caused by a very common virus called human papilloma virus. Most strains of the virus cause no effect; however some strains may cause warts, cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. HPV is first introduced into the genital tract with sexual intercourse and therefore all sexually active women should be screened with a Pap smear for cervical cancer.