PAP Testing


This webpage is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


[ What Does an Abnormal Pap Test Result Mean? ][ What Can Cause an Abnormal Result? ] [Cancer of the Cervix Risk Factors ] [ Colposcopy Exam ][ Treatment Options and Follow Up ]

What Does an Abnormal Pap Test Mean?

If you have an abnormal Pap test, don't worry: it doesn't mean you have cervical cancer. It just means that some cells have changed and you need to be re-tested.

If your Pap test shows cell changes or abnormalities, you may be referred to a specialist (gynaecologist) for more tests or a colposcopy and treatment if necessary.

Treatment is very effective and will help prevent cancer.

What Can Cause an Abnormal Result?

An abnormal Pap test result can be caused by:

Cancer of the Cervix Risk Factors

You're at a greater risk of developing cancer of the cervix if:

  • You had sexual intercourse before the age of 18. (Cervical cells are not mature before the age of 18 and are easily infected if exposed to STIs.)
  • You've had sexual intercourse with more than one partner.
  • You have an STI such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV or genital warts) or herpes.
  • You smoke. (Smoking increases the chances of STIs causing changes to the cervix.)
  • Your mother took DES (diethylstilbestrol) while she was pregnant with you. (DES was prescribed between only 1940-1971).

Colposcopy Exam

A colposcopy examines and identifies abnormal cells on the cervix. It's performed by a gynaecologist and will show which treatment option is required (if necessary). You don't need an anaesthetic for this test.

Your colposcopic exam will take about 15 minutes. During the procedure your gynaecologist will place an instrument called a colposcope near - but not in - your vagina. The colposcope will magnify you cervical cells, making them easier for your gynaecologist to see.

After the test you may experience slight discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps along with a low backache. (This is due to the position during the examination and the procedure's taking longer than the usual pelvic exam.)

Your test results will be ready about two weeks after your examination. When your results arrive your gynaecologist will call you to discuss your treatment options (if treatment is necessary).

A colposcopy and the treatment for an abnormal Pap test should not affect your ability to have children.

Treatment Options and Follow-Up

Treatment Options

Based on your test results, your gynaecologist will likely recommend one of the following treatment options:


During cryotherapy a special solution is used to freeze your cervix and destroy the abnormal cells. (A watery vaginal discharge will begin and may last up to three weeks following cryotherapy.)

Laser Treatment

Laser treatment involves using lasers to destroy the thin layers of abnormal cells on your cervix. This procedure can cause some discomfort and a bloody vaginal discharge, like a menstrual period, might result.

Cone biopsy

A cone biopsy is the removal of the abnormal tissue from your cervix.


Your gynaecologist will recommend a repeat Pap test in 4 to 6 months following treatment for abnormal cervical cells. This follow-up is very important as it will tell indicate if your cervical cells have returned to normal, or if abnormal cells are still present.

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