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Abnormal Pap Test?
     What you should know                   
Woman Pap Test
Inside a woman's body

Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo.

The Pap test can save lives.

The Pap test checks for changes in the cells of the cervix
(the opening of the uterus) that could lead to cancer.
When abnormal changes are found, a woman who
needs treatment can get it before cancer develops. The
earlier a woman gets treatment, the better!

When a Pap test is abnormal, what does that

If a Pap test is not normal, it usually does not mean there
is cancer of the cervix. Most of the time, an abnormal Pap  
test means one of two things:

  • There are abnormal cells that could become
     cancer if not treated.


  • There may be an infection called HPV (human

What if there are abnormal cell changes?

Most of the time, the cell changes will go away on their
own. Your provider may want you to come back for a
Pap test in 12 months.

Or you may be asked to have a special exam of your
cervix called a colposcopy. 

What happens during a colposcopy?

You may be asked to have a special exam of
your cervix called a colposcopy.

This careful look at your cervix does not hurt
and may be all that is needed.

  • During this exam, the provider will use a
    bright light and a magnifying lens to
    examine your cervix.

Colposcopy Exam

My provider explained the exam to me.

The provider may also need to do a biopsy at the  
same time.

  • A tiny bit of cervical tissue is taken and
    sent to a lab.
  • During the biopsy, you may feel a little
    pinch or some mild cramping.

What happens after these exams?

Some women will need no treatment at all and
will have follow-up exams only. Other women
will need an office treatment to remove the
abnormal cells.

Your provider will talk to you about what
treatment you may need. The treatment will
depend on the type of abnormal cells they are
and where they are found.

Get the care you need. Don't wait!

The important thing is to get the treatment
you need when your provider recommends it.

  • Talk with your provider about
    anything you don't understand or are
    worried about.
  • Keep asking questions until you get
    answers that you understand.
  • Get the tests and exams you need.
    Don't put them off!

Protect yourself from cancer of
the cervix!

  • Get a Pap test as often as your 
    provider recommends.
  • Get the follow-up care you need.
    Don't wait.
  • Ask about the HPV vaccine.
  • Don't smoke cigarettes.
  • Use condoms every time you have sex to  
    lower the chances you will be infected
    with the virus (HPV) that causes cancer
    of the cervix.










© 2011 Department of Health Care Services, Office of Family Planning. All Rights Reserved.
Revised 2017. Any one shown in these photos is a model. The photos are used for illustrative purposes only.                                                                  
*For additional copies, go to: 
OF2667 Abnormal Pap ENG