Abnormal Pap test? What to know about cervical dysplasia

So, you’ve been through the discomfort and awkwardness of your Pap test, and you’ve gotten the unexpected call from your doctor: Your Pap test was abnormal. Now what? We recently spoke with Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., co-leader of MD Anderson’s HPV-Related Cancers Moon Shot™, to find out what you should know. Here’s what she had to say. What does it mean when my doctor says I have an abnormal Pap test? An abnormal Pap test result means there are cells on your cervix that don’t look normal under a microscope. This fairly common condition is known as cervical dysplasia, or pre-invasive cervical disease. Does my abnormal Pap test mean I’m going to have cervical cancer? An abnormal Pap test doesn’t mean you have cancer or that you’ll have cancer in the future. In most cases, women with an abnormal Pap test don’t end up developing cervical cancer. But some do have pre-cancer, which is very treatable. What causes an abnormal Pap test? Abnormal cell changes in the cervix are often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Usually, HPV infections clear up on their own. But some HPV strains can cause high-grade dysplasia and several types of cancer, including cervical cancer. Sometimes, abnormal cells are caused by a yeast infection or a bacterial infection, both of which are very treatable. Or, if you’ve already been through menopause, these cell changes may be the result of age. A weakened immune system and HIV can also make you more likely to have an abnormal Pap test. But most women with abnormal Pap test results are perfectly healthy. What’s the difference between low-grade and...