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Abnormal Pap Smears

Pap tests are screening tests for cervical cancer. During the test, a swab is inserted into the vagina to collect cell samples. The cells are then sent to a lab for examination.

Pap tests have been instrumental in decreasing the number of cases of cervical cancer in the United States by detecting a precancerous condition called dysplasia. Dysplasia is an alteration in the skin of the cervix, vagina, vulva or anus that has the potential to progress to cancer if left untreated.

Our Approach to Abnormal Pap Tests

Abnormal Pap test results signal that precancerous cells have formed on the cervix. Left untreated, these cells may turn into cancer. This condition, called cervical dysplasia, is typically caused by human papillomavirus.

At UCSF, we offer the full range of screening and treatment options for cervical dysplasia, including the ThinPrep Pap test, an improved version of the conventional Pap smear, as well as laser therapy, cryotherapy and other techniques to remove the abnormal cells and prevent cancer. We believe that empowering women with knowledge is an important part of the healing process, and we encourage each patient to participate in choosing the best treatment option for her.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.