Why an abnormal Pap smear doesn’t always mean you have cancer

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An abnormal Pap smear may lead to a biopsy to gather more information and confirm or deny the results of the test. Getty Images

(Elena Bruess/ Insider) — A Papanicolaou test, commonly called a Pap smear, tests for abnormal cells in your cervix  — the area connecting the uterus to the vagina — and determines if these cells may be precancerous (called dysplasia) or cancerous. The goal of a Pap smear is to detect abnormalities before they become cancer. It may take up to three weeks to get your Pap smear results back.

An abnormal Pap smear result indicates some cervical cells appear irregular. But, that doesn’t always mean cells are cancerous. Every year around three million people receive abnormal Pap results, but less than 1% of them are diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

Here’s what you need to know about abnormal Pap smear results and why it doesn’t always mean you should worry. (…)

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