Abnormal pap smears are most often due to the effects of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). HPV is very common in sexually active persons. Usually HPV infection is transient (short-lived) and will go away on its own. In some women the virus can persist over time and cause changes to the cells on the cervix. These HPV-related changes are known as cervical dysplasia, and the abnormalities can range from mild to severe. Cervical dysplasia must be monitored closely by a physician and in some cases treated. Without treatment, in some women severe changes can progress over time into cervical cancer. The good news is that these changes tend to happen slowly, which gives the doctor opportunity to treat the abnormal cells while still in the pre-cancerous stage.


Current screening protocols employ both traditional Pap smear screening, specific HPV testing, or a combination of both tests, depending on your age and your history. These protocols allow many patients to undergo screening less frequently, but also identify those patients who require very close follow up or, perhaps, additional testing.


For both females and males between the ages of nine and 26, two vaccines are available that help to prevent many HPV infections. Gardasil Vaccine prevents infection with two types of HPV causing 75% of cervical cancer, and two types of HPV causing 90% of genital warts. Cervical cancer could be a problem of the past, with safe sexual practices, vaccination, and through regular Pap smear screening leading to early identification and treatment.

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