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Home Ask the Experts Ask the Experts Why isn’t treatment more aggressive following an abnormal Pap test result?

Why isn’t treatment more aggressive following an abnormal Pap test result?

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My girlfriend had her Pap test and when the clinic gave her the results last week, she was told there’s something abnormal, precancer cells, but not to worry and to just come back for another Pap later, like in a few months. We looked online (bet you haven’t heard that before…) and came up with fact sheets that talk about high-risk HPV, cell changes, etc etc. I just don’t understand why they aren’t being more aggressive in treating her? What if next time her test finds she developed cancer?

It can be really scary, no doubt, when you hear the words high-risk and cervical cancer but keep in mind that very, very few high-risk HPV infections lead to cervical cancer, and in most cases the immune response clears the virus naturally. Cervical cancer tends to develop very slowly, so women who go for Pap tests (and other follow up exams as directed) are at low risk of developing the disease.

It’s very common with mild cases for the health care provider (like a doctor or nurse practitioner) to just tell a woman they’ll do another Pap in a few months. That gives the body a chance to deal with things on its own, but still allows the health care provider time to do any treatments that might be needed in a timely fashion. If the Pap is still abnormal, they may do additional diagnostic procedures like a colposcopy, where the cervix is examined with a special microscope and several small biopsy samples might be taken. Alternatively, in some cases an additional HPV test can be done with the initial evaluation to see if colposcopy should be done sooner. This helps guide the right kind of follow-up, including any necessary treatment options. Your partner should speak with her provider if she has any questions about her diagnosis or follow up.