Abnormal cervical cancer screening test results

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What is cervical cancer screening?

Cervical cancer screening is used to find abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening may include the Pap test, testing for a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), or both.

What causes abnormal cervical cancer screening test results?

The main cause of cervical cancer is infection with HPV. There are many types of HPV. Some types have been linked to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, and penis. Some also can cause cancer of the head and neck. These types of HPV are known as “high-risk” types.

How are HPV test results described?

HPV test results show whether you have a high-risk type of HPV infection. Results are negative or positive:

  • A negative HPV test means that you do not have an HPV type that is linked to cancer.
  • A positive HPV test means that you have an HPV infection. This does not mean that you have cancer now, but it may be a sign that cancer could develop later. You may need follow-up testing.

What follow-up testing may be needed?

If you have a positive HPV test or an abnormal Pap test result, you may need further testing. Testing is based on your age, initial screening test result, and any previous test results.

If your initial test results show you have a very high risk of developing cervical cancer, you may consider treatment without additional testing.

How are abnormal cervical cells treated?

In general, there are two ways to treat abnormal cervical cells:

  • Excisional treatment- Tissue is removed from the cervix and sent to a laboratory to be studied. Results can tell whether CIN actually is present and, if so, how severe it is.
  • Ablative treatment- Abnormal cervical tissue is destroyed, and there is no tissue to send to a laboratory for study.

What are the types of excisional treatments?

Excisional treatments include the following:

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)- A thin wire loop that carries an electric current is used to remove abnormal areas of the cervix.
  • Conization- A cone-shaped piece of the cervix that contains the abnormal cells is removed.

What are the types of ablative treatments?

Ablative treatments include the following:

  • Cryotherapy- An instrument is used to freeze abnormal cervical tissue, which then sloughs off.
  • Laser therapy- A focused beam of light is used to destroy abnormal cervical tissue.

Will I need more cervical cancer screening after treatment?

Yes, you should continue with routine cervical cancer screening. More frequent screening may be needed, depending on what type of abnormal cell changes you had.