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Reasons for Abnormal Pap Smear

by Misha Safranski
  • Overview

    The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 55 million American women receive pap smear tests every year. Only six percent of those require follow-up testing, and the vast majority of abnormal tests turn out negative for any serious medical problems. Upwards of 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually. Though cancer is rare it's recommended that healthy women get a pap test every three years to screen for abnormal cells.
  • HPV

    According to the National Cancer Institute, HPV (human papilloma virus) causes abnormal pap smear results. Though this virus is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, the majority of women with HPV do not develop the cancer.
  • Infections

    Bacterial or yeast infections, genital herpes or recent intercourse can cause abnormal cells to be present on the cervix, resulting in an abnormal pap smear, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
  • Endometrium

    Cells from the endometrium of the uterus may migrate to the cervix. The endometrium is composed of blood and may cause an abnormal pap test.
  • Menopause

    Cell changes to the cervix sometimes occur simply as the result of aging, particularly in women who have been through menopause.
  • Prevention/Solution

    The NCI recommends that an abnormal pap smear be followed by appropriate testing. This may include cervical biopsy, colonoscopy or LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure).

    References & Resources