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Understanding Your Pap Results

Understanding Your Pap Results


            Many women become greatly concerned when they are informed of an abnormal pap result.  Often, the initial thought or reaction is: Do I have cervical cancer?  Although the purpose of the Pap test is to screen for cervical cancer, we most often find precancerous pap results.

            An abnormal pap test can be reported in many different stages.  The most common abnormal pap results are ASCUS (with or without HPV), LGIL, and HGIL.  

  • ASCUS is short for Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance.  This means that the cervical cells appear different than normal but could not be categorized in either the low-grade or high-grade diagnoses.  When an ASCUS pap is noted, a HPV test is performed to detect the presence of Human Papilloma Virus. 
  •     + HPV: If HPV is present, it in necessary for the women to undergo a colposcopy and possible biopsy to determine the grade level of the lesion.
  •   -   HPV: If HPV is not present, the pap is considered normal.  The cervical cells may appear different from irritation (such as from yeast or bacterial infection) or atrophy (in postmenopausal women).  Follow-up is another pap and HPV test in 1 year.
  •  LSIL is Low-grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions.  This indicates that the cervical cells are mildly abnormal.  However, it is necessary to move on to colposcopy in order to evaluate the cervix more closely.
  • HSIL is High-grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions.  This indicates moderate to severely abnormal cells.  Colposcopy and biopsy are performed.

What Can I Do About My Abnormal Pap Result?

    If you are between the ages of 9 and 26, get the HPV vaccine (Gardasil).  This vaccine can help boost your immunity to HPV and also protect you from the 4 types of HPV contained in the vaccine.  Most importantly, come to all your treatment and follow-up visits!

Cyndi Ayoub, WHNP
posted 5/1/09