Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in American women, but regular Pap smears have greatly reduced the incidence of cervical cancer deaths. This test is routinely performed by Michael Straker, MD, and Massiel De La Cruz, PA-C, at Bestcare OB/GYN, located in Nutley, New Jersey. Pap smears reveal precancerous changes or cancer in the cervix, allowing for advanced diagnostics, like colposcopy, and treatment. Call the office to learn more about abnormal Pap smears and colposcopy, or use the online tool to set up an appointment.
A Pap smear is a simple, noninvasive screening performed during a regular pelvic exam. Your provider uses a swab to obtain a sample of cells from your cervix and sends this sample to a lab, where it’s examined under a microscope.
Routine Pap smears identify early cellular changes that may be due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Certain strains of HPV cause cellular abnormalities that can progress to cervical cancer.
All women who are 21 and older benefit from having a Pap smear at least every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 without a history of abnormal Pap tests may consider having a Pap smear together with an HPV test every five years. Or your provider may recommend a different testing schedule for you based on your history and individual needs.
If you should have a Pap smear that comes back as “abnormal,” it’s not a diagnosis of cancer. The abnormal reading simply means irregular cells have been detected. If these irregularities are mild, you may have a repeat test a few weeks or months later to see if the irregularities resolve on their own.
If you have moderate-to-severe abnormalities in your cervical cells, you may undergo a colposcopy. This in-office procedure gives the providers at Bestcare OB/GYN a magnified view of your cervix so they can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend other procedures, if necessary.
During a colposcopy, your provider uses a special magnifying instrument, called a colposcope, to get a better view of your cervix. You lie on an exam table, much like you do for a pelvic exam. Your provider uses a speculum to hold open the walls of the vagina and swabs away any mucus. They then apply a vinegar solution to the area to highlight any irregular cells.
With a bright light and the colposcope placed just inches from your vulva, the doctors visually inspect the abnormal tissue. The entire procedure lasts about 10-20 minutes and isn’t painful.
You may feel pressure on the cervix and a slight tingling due to the vinegar solution.
The abnormal tissue may be removed using a LEEP cervical biopsy, during which your provider uses a thin, wire loop to scrape away the offending tissue. The area is cauterized to stop any bleeding.
To find out more about abnormal Pap smears and colposcopy, call Bestcare OB/GYN or use the online tool to schedule an appointment.