What Does An Abnormal Smear Result Mean?
If you have recently had a smear test and you’ve been informed that your smear was abnormal then it’s natural for you to be anxious and worried as to what this means. However, cervical screening tests are designed to identify even the smallest problems (i.e. pre-cancerous changes) before any serious complications arise in a woman’s cervix. As a result, abnormal smear results are very common. It has been reported that one in 20 smears come back with an abnormality.
An abnormal smear can be categorised as mild, moderate or severe. The medical terms are mild, moderate or severe dyskaryosis. A borderline grade is between normal and mild. If you have a low grade smear result (mild and borderline dyskaryosis )then you will typically be advised to have an additional pap test or a colposcopy to quantify the initial results. If the changes are confirmed to be mild in nature then a conservative approach will be recommended as it’s likely that the affected cells will go back to normal on their own. Nevertheless, it’s important that you attend any follow-up requests your GP or gynaecologist to ensure that your cervix us healthy and unaffected by any pre-cancerous cells.
For those who have high risk type changes (moderate to severe HPV viral infection) then you will be referred to a gynaecologist for a thorough colposcopic examination. This will establish the true nature of your cervix abnormalities. High grade smears (moderate and severe) often need to be treated. However, it’s important to recognise that cervical cancer can take up to a decade to develop. This doesn’t mean that the results can be ignored but rather that abnormal cervical screenings and colposcopy test results enable us to promptly address any issues so that future conditions can be avoided.
What Causes An Abnormal Smear?
Abnormal smears represent pre-cancerous changes of the cervix. They are caused by an infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is otherwise known as the Wart Virus. It is estimated that as many as 75% of the reproductive-age population has been infected with one or more types of genital HPV. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases (approximately 95%), the virus causes no symptoms or health problems. More than 95% of HPV viruses cause no symptoms or problems.Most women will fight the infection via their immune system. For others it will progress and finally cause abnormal smears. There are about 200 different types of HPV but there are only approximately 40 strains that are spread through sexual contact and only a handful which are associated with cervical cancer. These are considered to high risk types.
Have You Been Invited For A Colposcopy? What Does This Cervical Examination involve?
Colposcopy is an office procedure and feels very similar to having a smear test. Cervix is visualised using a speculum and it is examined under magnification for evidence of low/high grade changes. Two dyes are applied to the cervix (acetic acid and iodine) which highlight the abnormality if present. You will be given an option to see your cervix on the screen.
Treatment For Severe Dyskaryosis?
The commonest form of treatment is LLETZ (Large Loop Excision of Transformation Zone). It is also known as LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure). This is commonly carried out as an outpatient procedure under local anaesthesia. After numbing the cervix with local anaesthetic a wire loop is used to remove the abnormal cells. It is a quick procedure with mild discomfort.