The incidence of cervical cancer has been dramatically reduced with the use of routine screening with the Pap smear. The Pap smear involves the sampling of cells from the cervix and analysis of these cells under the microscope. Certain changes can be found in these cells which may include cervical cancer, but more often may include some abnormalities that are considered potentially pre-cancerous and should be investigated further.
This further investigation may include repeat Pap smear in 6 months rather than at the usual annual interval, or may include colposcopy, in which the cervix is stained with a chemical to help display any abnormal areas, and a sample of these areas can be biopsied. To help determine the significance of abnormal cells obtained from a Pap, sometimes the sample is also analyzed for the presence of high-risk HPV (human papilloma virus) which has been linked to the development of cervical cancer.
Your Ob/Gyn doctor
will be able to discuss the results of your Pap smear with you at this follow-up appointment. You should use this time as an opportunity to ask questions about the meaning of your Pap smear results and clarify what the follow-up plans will involve.