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ap Test Results
What Does My Pap Test Result Mean?

The pap test checks your cervix for abnormal cells that could turn into cervical cancer. It is not an HPV test. See the HPV page for more on that.

Your Pap test will come back as either “normal,” “unclear,” or “abnormal.”

A normal (or “negative”) result means that no cell changes were found on your cervix. This is good news. But you still need to get Pap tests in the future. New cell changes can still form on your cervix.

Even if you have had the Gardasil® vaccine, you still need to get pap smears every year.

It is common for test results to come back unclear. Your doctor may use other words to describe this result, like: equivocal, inconclusive, or ASC-US.* (see below). These all mean the same thing: that your cervical cells look like they could be abnormal. It is not clear if it’s related to HPV. It could be related to life changes like pregnancy, menopause, or even an infection. The HPV test can help find out if your cell changes are related to HPV. The test should be repeated at another date if it is "unclear". (See below).
An abnormal result means that cell changes were found on your cervix. This usually does not mean that you have cervical cancer.

Abnormal changes on your cervix are likely caused by HPV. The changes may be minor (low-grade) or serious (high-grade). Most of the time, minor changes go back to normal on their own. But more serious changes can turn into cancer if they are not removed. The more serious changes are often called “precancer” because they are not yet cancer, but they can turn into cancer over time. It is important to make sure these changes do not get worse.

In rare cases, an abnormal Pap test can show that you may have cancer. You will need other tests to be sure. The earlier you find cervical cancer, the easier it is to treat.

* ASC-US (ASK-us): This word stands for “Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance.” Doctors may use this word to describe a Pap test result that is unclear. Your doctor may also use words like “equivocal” or “inconclusive” to describe this result.

* It is estimated that every year 3 million women will have an unclear pap test result. Only about 10,000 of these woman will have cervical cancer.

If your Pap test results are unclear or abnormal, you will likely need more tests so your doctor can tell if your cell changes could be related to cancer. ASK your doctor questions if you don't understand the results.

This information is from the National Cancer Institute. For more on cancer treatments and detection, visit their site.

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