Understanding Cervical Cancer Screening Results

There are two tests that can help detect cancer in its early stages and even prevent it altogether. The Pap test – also known as the Pap smear – looks for precancerous cells on the cervix that could become cancerous if not treated. The HPV test detects the human papillomavirus, which could cause the cells in the cervix to become cancerous. Understanding the results of these tests can bring a great deal of peace of mind.


Pap Test Results


When a Pap test is returned, it will read as normal, unclear, or abnormal. A normal result indicates that no changes in the cells of the cervix were found. While this is the news everyone wants to hear, it is important to get future testing. Testing within one year is usually typical. Cell changes may still develop on the cervix, so it is recommended to get a screening within.


Sometimes, a Pap test result comes back unclear. Other terms used to indicate unclear results are equivocal, inconclusive, or ASC-US. An inconclusive Pap test shows that cells on the cervix could be abnormal. However, while unclear results may worry some, they are very common. Sometimes, these results are due to life changes such as pregnancy, menopause, or an infection. A patient may need to undergo further testing, or abnormal cells may have to be removed.


A Pap test could also have abnormal results, which means that changes were found on the patient’s cervix. However, it does not automatically mean they have cervical cancer. Changes in the cervix are typically caused by HPV and can be minor or serious in nature. The most serious changes are often referred to as “precancerous” because they may turn into cancer cells over time. This would also require further testing and the potential removal of abnormal cells.


HPV Test Results


HPV test results can come back as either negative or positive. A negative test means the patient does not have any type of HPV that can be linked to cervical cancer.


Alternatively, a positive HPV test means a person does have a type of HPV virus that is linked to cervical cancer. While this does not necessarily imply they have cervical cancer, it is a very serious warning sign, so it is essential to seek appropriate treatment as soon as possible.


When a person is co-tested – or has both the HPV screening and the Pap test administered at the same time – and those results are different, additional testing would be necessary to determine the cause.


Ask Your Physician for Help with Understanding Cervical Cancer Screening Results


No one should put off testing for cervical cancer. If you have not had a Pap test or an HPV test in the past five years, you should schedule both today. These tests are crucial in detecting cervical cancer early and can even prevent it from developing. If you need testing, call your doctor today to book an appointment.