How to Understand Pap Smear Results

Named after the Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou, the Papanicolaou test, or more commonly known as the Pap smear test, is a screening test for cervical cancer. By closely examining the cells scrapped from the cervix, i.e. the lower part of a woman’s uterus, doctors can detect potentially cancerous and even pre-cancerous processes in the region. If a threat is detected, the results are said to be abnormal.

Women, who are sexually active, are strongly advised to get a Pap smear test annually. If an abnormality is diagnosed while still in early stages, doctors can intervene and prevent it from becoming a cervical cancer.


– An appointment with a doctor, preferably an oncologist
– Literature about your Pap smear results
– A copy of your results


  • 1

    Once you have gotten a Pap smear test, sit down with your doctor and ask him/her to explain the results to you in detail. Do not be in a rush to leave the hospital or clinic.

    Request the doctor to use simple terms instead of medical ones, if you are having difficulty understanding what they are saying. You should not walk out of the hospital or clinic unless you have completely understood your results.

  • 2

    If the test result is abnormal, do not panic. Stay relaxed and ask the doctor what the possible reasons could be. Abnormal results can have a number of causes such as vaginal infection or human papillomaviruses (HPV). There are plenty of other reasons for getting an abnormal result as well.

  • 3

    If you are not satisfied with the doctor’s explanation, or you simply want to get a better understanding of your results, request your doctor to give you any literature they have about your results. Take the literature home with you and carefully go through it to create an understanding. When you are done reading, call your doctor to discuss your Pap smear test result further.

  • 4

    Ask the doctor to give you a copy of your Pap smear test result. It may be of use to you in case you plan on visiting another specialist for his/her opinion.

  • 5

    The doctor may recommend some treatment in case of abnormal results. Follow the recommendations strictly.

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