What can cause a Pap smear to come back abnormal?


Quick Answer

According to WebMD, an abnormal Pap smear means that some of the cells on the cervix do not look normal. The causes for cervical cells looking abnormal can include human papillomavirus, bacterial or yeast infection or cervical cancer.

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Full Answer

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human papillomavirus is the most common cause of an abnormal Pap smear. HPV is often asymptomatic. If left untreated, it can cause cervical cancer, which makes regular Pap smear screenings important. While is it not possible to feel or see these changes on the cervix, a Pap smear easily detects any changes that have led to abnormal cells on the cervix.

If an abnormal Pap smear is a result of an infection or sexually transmitted disease, the patient may experience other symptoms, such as discharge, pain, burning, itching or sores on the genitals. If this is the case, the patient needs to be treated for the infection and subsequent Pap smear results should return to normal.

High-risk sex increases the chances of having an abnormal Pap smear, as WebMD explains. The use of condoms contributes to practicing safe sex. HPV can remain in a woman's body for several years and produce an abnormal Pap smear at any point. Early detection is imperative to prevent the development of cervical cancer.

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