In English | En español
Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Understanding Cervical Changes: A Health Guide for Women

  • Posted: 01/21/2010

Page Options

  • Print This Page
  • Print This Document
  • View Entire Document
  • Email This Document
  • View/Print PDF

Table 2: Tests or Follow-Up Treatments That Health Care Providers Use for Abnormal Pap Tests


Possible Test or TreatmentWhat It IsWhat To ExpectWhat Your Health Care Provider May Recommend
Repeat Pap test
  • Same procedure as the first Pap test
  • Done if you have minor cell changes or if the result of the first Pap test was unsatisfactory
Same procedure as the first Pap test

You may need to return for repeat Pap tests every 4-6 months until you have two normal results in a row.

After two normal results in a row, you can go back to having Pap tests at least once every 3 years.

HPV testing
  • A sample of cells from your cervix is tested in the lab. This looks for HPV DNA in the cells.
Procedure is similar to a Pap test.If the test shows that you have HPV, your health care provider may recommend a colposcopy.
Hormone therapy
  • An estrogen cream applied to your vagina/cervix for a few weeks
  • Prescribed by your doctor if you have ASC-US and are near or past menopause
Cell changes caused by low hormone levels will go away, and other changes will remain.

A repeat Pap test is done after 6-8 weeks.

If the results of the repeat Pap test are abnormal, your health care provider may recommend a colposcopy.

Colposcopy
  • The most common test for women who get an abnormal Pap test result
  • Your health care provider uses a special tool, called a colposcope, to view your cervix from outside the body. The colposcope has a bright light with a magnifying lens.

Can be done in your health care provider's office in about 15 minutes

Your health care provider:

  • Puts a speculum into your vagina to see your cervix
  • Applies diluted white vinegar to the surface of your cervix

Areas that are abnormal turn white from the vinegar and can be seen more easily.

You may feel nothing at all or a mild tingling.

Depending on the results, your health care provider may recommend further tests or treatments.
Colposcopy with biopsy and/or endocervical curettage
  • Done if the colposcopy found any abnormal tissue in your cervix (see previous page)
  • For a biopsy, your health care provider will remove a small piece of tissue from the abnormal area. This specimen is sent to a lab for study.
  • For an endocervical curettage, your health care provider will remove cells from inside your endocervical canal with a small spoon-shaped tool called a curette; this takes about 10 seconds. This specimen is sent to a lab for study.

May cause mild pain and cramping (much like menstrual cramps)

You may have less pain and cramping if you take ibuprofen (brand names include Advil®, Motrin®, and Nuprin®) about an hour before the test.

You may have a brown discharge from your vagina for a few days afterward; you may want to wear a pad.

It takes several days for your cervix to heal. To help prevent infection and bleeding during this time:

  • Do not use tampons.
  • Do not douche.
  • Do not do any heavy lifting.
  • Do not have sex.
Depending on the results, your health care provider may recommend further tests and/or treatments.