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Cervical smear test

(continued)

What happens if the results are abnormal?

An abnormal cervical smear test does not necessarily mean that cancer cells were found during the examination. There are many causes for abnormal cervical smear test results. Your doctor will evaluate the results to determine if further testing is necessary.

Why would I need to repeat the cervical smear test?

A repeat cervical smear test may be necessary if you had an infection at the time of the test or if there were not enough cells collected during the test. Since decreased levels of the female hormone oestrogen also can influence cervical smear test results, menopausal women may need to take oestrogen before they repeat the test.

If the results of the repeat cervical smear test are still abnormal, your doctor may recommend that you have a colposcopy to further evaluate the problem.

What is a colposcopy?

Colposcopy is an examination of the cervix and the walls of the vagina. During the examination, a speculum is inserted into the vagina (as done in a cervical smear test). Your doctor looks through a magnifying instrument called a colposcope to detect cervical problems that cannot be seen by the eye alone. During the colposcopy, the colposcope remains outside the vagina. Biopsies (tissue samples) of the abnormal cervical area may be taken.

Colposcopy is not always necessary immediately after an abnormal cervical smear test. Be sure to ask your doctor about other options.

What symptoms should I watch for between cervical smear tests?

Pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix seldom cause symptoms. For problems to be detected, a pelvic examination and a cervical smear test are usually required.

When cancer is present in the cervix, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding. Bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods, or it may occur after sexual intercourse. Abnormal vaginal discharge is another symptom. Pain is NOT an early warning sign of the disease. These symptoms are not sure signs of cancer. Seek medical advice if any of these symptoms develop.

Do I need to have cervical smear tests if I have had a hysterectomy?

Cervical smear tests may be discontinued after a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix), unless the surgery was performed for cervical pre-invasive or invasive cancer or other uterine cancers. Women who have had a partial hysterectomy with the cervix remaining should continue to have routine cervical smear tests. Check with your doctor to determine if you still need cervical smear tests.

Do I still need a smear test if I've had the HPV vaccination?

Yes. Women who've had the HPV jab are advised to continue accepting invitations for cervical screening as the vaccination will not prevent all types of cervical cancer.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 24, 2014

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