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Abnormal Pap Test - Follow-Up Tests

When your Pap test result is abnormal, you always need to follow up with your doctor. Often this just means having regular checkups and Pap tests. But sometimes it means more tests or treatment.

It's very important to complete any further testing that your doctor recommends.

Watchful waiting

Most women won't need special testing or treatment. Instead, they'll follow a schedule of regular Pap tests to watch for cell changes. This is called watchful waiting. It may be recommended when:

  • You have a treatable infection in the vagina or cervix.
  • You have an HPV infection. Most low-risk types of HPV go away on their own within 6 to 18 months.
  • Your cell changes are minor.

It's okay to do nothing but watch and wait, because minor cell changes such as ASC-US or LSIL don't usually become more severe during a short period of watchful waiting.

Watchful waiting may not be a good choice if you don't think you'll be able to follow your doctor's recommendations about having regular Pap tests. Talk with your doctor about your testing choices.

More testing

After an abnormal Pap test, you may need more tests to look for infection or to find out more about your cell changes. These tests include:

  • HPV testHPV test. This test looks for high-risk types of HPV (human papillomavirus). Knowing whether you have a high-risk type of HPV can help guide your treatment decisions.
  • ColposcopyColposcopy. In this test, your doctor uses a magnifying instrument to look at your vagina and cervix. The doctor takes a small sample of tissue so that it can be examined under a microscope.
    Pap Test: Should I Have Colposcopy if My Pap Test Shows Minor Cell Changes?
  • Cone biopsyCone biopsy. A cone biopsy removes a little more tissue than a cervical biopsy. It may also serve as treatment by removing the abnormal cells.
  • Tests for other infections, such as other sexually transmitted infections, a yeast infection, or a bacterial infection.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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