Abnormal Pap Smear?
Can an abnormal Pap smear be an indicator for any sexually transmitted diseases? And, related to that, why is it necessary to wait four months before going back to get another Pap smear?
The aim of a Pap smear, named after Dr. George Papanicolaou, is to detect abnormal cells in the cervix, the donut-shaped entrance to the uterus. The idea is to identify cellular changes that can lead to cancer before they get out of control. The procedure is simple: A gynecologist uses a soft brush, called a cytobrush, to sample cells from just inside the cervical opening, and a small wooden or plastic spatula to gather cells from the outside. The cells are fixed on a slide and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
The Pap smear itself is not a diagnostic test for sexually transmitted diseases, but it can reveal conditions associated with them. In fact, most abnormal Pap slides result from infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) - not any malignancy. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that causes venereal warts and is associated with cervical cancer. It's believed that you have to have HPV in order to develop cancer of the cervix. But HPV doesn't automatically lead to cancer - it just means you should be extra vigilant and get Pap smears yearly.
Most cervical cell changes found in a Pap smear return to normal on their own within a few months. That's why gynecologists will usually wait four months, then repeat the test. If the second test comes back clear, then it's best to repeat the smear a third time to make sure you get two negative tests in a row. False negatives occur often enough that I wouldn't be satisfied with just one negative result.
Cervical cancer is slow-growing, so a wait of four months shouldn't be a problem. If you want to be extra careful, or if the second test comes back positive, you can have the abnormal tissue removed right away.
You should also know the risk factors for cervical cancer. These include infection with HPV, multiple childbirths, smoking, unsafe sex with multiple partners, first intercourse before age 16, and having a suppressed immune system. Whether or not any of these apply, however, I'd still recommend a Pap test once a year. The symptoms of cervical cancer include bleeding between periods or after intercourse and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Women with cervical abnormalities tend to have weakened immune systems. They may suffer from low levels of vitamins A and B complex, especially folic acid, and antioxidants. They may be experiencing extra stress. To help protect yourself against cellular changes in the cervix, the best thing to do is take good care of yourself and take my antioxidant cocktail, plus a B-complex supplement that provides 400 micrograms of folic acid.