Abnormal Pap Smears

Pap smears are screening tests for cervical cancer. During the test, a swab is inserted into the vagina to collect cell samples. The cells are then sent to a lab for examination.

Pap smears have been instrumental in decreasing the number of cases of cervical cancer in the United States by detecting a precancerous condition called dysplasia. Dysplasia is an alteration in the skin of the cervix, vagina, vulva or anus that has the potential to progress to cancer if left untreated.

Dysplasia usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, but it may be associated with abnormal bleeding or spotting.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.