Abnormal Pap Smears & "Precancerous" Cells
- Reality star Jamie Otis shared that her doctors discovered “precancerous” cells during a routine Pap smear at an OBGYN appointment
- Leading experts tell SurvivorNet that in most cases, abnormalities in cells that are “precancerous” are unlikely to progress into actual cancer
- If a Pap smear shows abnormal cells, you will likely get a colposcopy to examine the cells. This doesn’t need to be done immediately since these abnormalities develop very slowly
“We typically don’t call anything ‘precancerous,’ we call this cervical dysplasia,” says Dr. Kimberly Resnick, the division director of gynecologic oncology at MetroHealth in Cleveland. “All that means is that under the microscope the cells have begun to have some abnormalities, and the abnormalities can range from very few abnormalities to a great deal of abnormalities. The ones with many would be ‘precancerous,’ but there are so many different grades they’re really unlikely to progress to cancer.”Read More
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I have HPV. I found out when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy & had an “abnormal” pap.🤰🏼They told me I’d have to wait until my 6 week check up after delivery to investigate further so I didn’t risk losing my baby.👶🏼💙 I have two friends who told me they were diagnosed with HPV during pregnancy too. One said it went away completely after giving birth. The other may need a hysterectomy…. I was kinda hoping I’d be like my first friend & it’d be gone after delivery, but at my 6 week check up I had another pap. It came back abnormal with “high risk” cells. Sooo yesterday I had a colposcopy. When she finished the biopsy of my cervix she said that it’s likely I’ll need the LEEP procedure bc she could see the high risk, abnormal tissues. I am so fortunate to have caught this early. These “abnormal” cells are what turn into full blown cancer. Luckily for me, I got pregnant and they made me have a pap. Otherwise who knows when I would’ve had one. I didn’t always get my routine check ups bc I was so “busy.” Don’t let life get too “busy” to get your check ups. I believe in my heart I’ll be perfectly fine, but man! To think if I hadn’t gotten pregnant these high risk cells would just be hanging out spreading inside me and I wouldn’t know any better bc there are no signs or symptoms. Sooo, yeah, if you are due for your check up go get your pap!🙃💗 #marriedatfirstsight #mafs #hpv #hpvawareness #womenshealth #womensupportingwomen #postpartum #postpartumlife #momlife
Should We Be Worried About Abnormal Pap Smears?
Pap smears are effective ways to catch cancer early, which helps treatment go smoothly. This can be very important, especially since symptoms of cervical cancer often don’t show up until the disease is at stage 3 or 4. During a Pap smear, your doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix and then examine them under a microscope for abnormalities, including cancer and changes that could indicate any lesions. However, it’s important to note that just because your Pap smear isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s life threatening.
“The majority of women with abnormal Pap smears will never develop cervical cancer, and there’s a very high rate, especially in young women, regression of abnormalities in their Pap smears as well,” says Dr. Resnick.
If lesions are detected, most women will undergo a colposcopy — a procedure which closely examines the cervix for disease. For Otis, she had to delay her treatment until after she gave birth, and it turns out getting examined immediately isn’t always necessary.
“These things tend to be very slow growing,” says Dr. John Nakayama, a gynecologic oncologist at University Hospitals. “If you have a high grade lesion, you need a colposcopy. If you have a low grade lesion, you might need a colposcopy, but is this going to turn into cancer overnight? No. Is this going to turn into cancer quickly? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get checked out.”
Rest assured, colposcopies aren’t as scary as they might sound. While examining the cervix, they’ll stain the area with vinegar so your physician can see abnormal cells. If they are detected, doctors may choose to do a biopsy.
Preventing Cervical Cancer Is Possible
The HPV vaccine has been subject to controversy since its approval, but experts have consistently said that it’s extremely safe and effective. In cases of HPV-related cancers, 90 percent of them are preventable in people who are administered the vaccine. Initially, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommended children as young as 11 year olds be administered the vaccine, but in July they released new HPV guidelines dropping the age to 9 years old. Additionally, under these new guidelines, ACS does not recommend administering the vaccination to anyone over 26 (despite the FDA’s June approval for Gardasil9 in preventing head and neck cancer for those up to age 45).
Ultimately, when it comes to knowing what’s best for your health, information is power. The experts urge all parents to talk to their physician about Gardasil in order to determine whether it should be given to their children. Plus, a routine Pap smear and OBGYN appointment never hurts.
“I’m a gynecologic oncologist, you never want to have to meet someone like me,” says Dr. Nakayama.