Pap Smear, Cervical Tests and Procedures

Cervical cancer screening – Pap Smear

Cervical cancer screening (first introduced in the United States as the Pap smear in 1941) has remained a mainstay in the prevention and detection of cervical cancer. The Pap smear screening test has been refined, now using a more efficient liquid collection (Thin Prep).   During the test, your practitioner will collect cell samples from your cervix.  The cells will be sent to the lab for further analysis.

Cervical cancer screening – HPV Test

In addition to a Pap smear, an HPV test may be used in certain instances (when medically indicated) to test for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer. The cells collected during your Pap smear can also be used to run the HPV test at the laboratory.  Click here to learn how we are using technology with the HPV test to strengthen our cervical cancer screening methods.

Colposcopy

Colposcopy is the procedure used to view the cervix with a magnifying scope. By using magnification and certain solutions applied to tissue, your doctor can identify the source of abnormal cells often found on Pap smears. Once these cell patterns are visible to the eye, small biopsies may be taken for the lab to evaluate and correlate with the Pap. There may be a little discomfort with the biopsy, but they are very quick and usually well-tolerated. Any bleeding is usually minimal and is treated with a “mustard-like” paste, which may leave a discharge for a few days. The procedure is less than 20 minutes long.

LEEP & Cone Biopsies

LEEP stands for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedures, which is a procedure where abnormal areas of the cervix may be removed for further evaluation, or to ensure that an abnormality has been completely removed. A LEEP would be used in cases of an abnormal pap smear followed by a colposcopy to confirm the diagnosis of dysplasia (abnormal growth). The LEEP device uses a thin, wire loop and electric current to remove the tissue. The cervix is first numbed using a local anesthetic and the procedure feels very similar to colposcopy.

Biopsies

An endometrial biopsy is a small sampling of the endometrium (lining) of the uterus. It is done to assist in diagnosing certain problems, usually in cases of irregular or abnormal bleeding. The tissue is sent to the lab for analysis. The resulting report (usually received within 7-14 days) adds vital information to aid in treatment planning. If not contraindicated, it is advised that ibuprofen be taken an hour or two prior to the visit to minimize discomfort during the quick procedure.

Other types of biopsies may include vulvar biopsy, skin biopsy, or a biopsy that is taken as part of another procedure (such as a colposcopy).