Keep in mind that most women with abnormal cervical screening test results do not have cancer. However, if you have an abnormal test result, it’s important to get the follow-up tests and/or treatment that your health care provider recommends. Possible next steps and treatments are listed in this section to help you learn more and talk with your health care provider.
Depending upon your test result, next steps may include:
Pap test: Some women may need to return for another Pap test
HPV test: An HPV test may be recommended.
Estrogen cream: If you have ASC-US and are near or past menopause, your health care provider may prescribe estrogen cream. If the cell changes are caused by low hormone levels, applying estrogen cream will make them go away.
A colposcopy is a procedure to examine your cervix. During this procedure, your doctor inserts a speculum to gently open the vagina and see the cervix. Diluted white vinegar is put on the cervix, causing abnormal areas to turn white. Your doctor then places an instrument called a colposcope close to the vagina. It has a bright light and a magnifying lens and allows your doctor to look closely at your cervix.
A colposcopy usually includes a biopsy. A biopsy is done so that the cells or tissues can be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. In addition to removing a sample for further testing, some types of biopsies may be used as treatment, to remove abnormal cervical tissue or lesions.
Types of cervical biopsies include:
- endocervical curettage: cells are scraped from the lining of the cervical canal
- punch biopsy: a small piece of cervical tissue is removed
- cone biopsy (or conization):a cone-shaped sample of cervical tissue is removed
Talk with your doctor to learn what to expect during and after your procedure. Some women have bleeding and/or discharge after a biopsy. Others have pain that feels like menstrual cramps. The list of questions below may be helpful as you talk with your health care provider to learn more.
Questions To Ask Before a Test or Procedure
- What is the purpose of this test or procedure? What will the results tell us?
- What will happen during the procedure? How long will it take?
- Should I limit any activities after the procedure? For how long?
- What problems or side effects should I call you about after the procedure?