What Do the ASCUS Pap Smear Results Mean?

How to Decode This Common Abnormal Test Result

Cervical cancer smear test UK
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A Pap smear can alert your doctor to the presence of suspicious cells on your cervix that need further testing or treatment, which is why it's recommended that these tests be undertaken regularly.

One abnormal result you may receive is called "atypical cells of undetermined significance" (also known as ASCUS). This result indicates mildly abnormal cells of the cervix of an unknown cause.

While an ASCUS Pap smear result may sound alarming, it is considered only mildly abnormal and is actually the most common abnormal Pap smear result you can receive.

There may, in fact, be no immediate cervical cancer risk associated with your ASCUS Pap smear result.

Causes of ASCUS Pap Smear Results

The most common causes of ASCUS Pap smear results are noncancerous (benign) conditions, such as infections or inflammation. These conditions can cause cervical cells to appear abnormal. Eventually, however, most cases return to a normal appearance with time.

For some women, an ASCUS result is due to changes in the cervical cells caused by HPV infection.

In most cases, these cervical changes do not progress to cervical cancer but do require further monitoring and possible treatment to prevent increased risk of cervical cancer.

What to Do After an ASCUS Pap Smear Result

The method in which a doctor manages an ASCUS pap smear result varies. Guidelines set forth by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) recommend that women aged 20 and younger repeat the Pap smear in 12 months to monitor to abnormal cells.

It is recommended that adult women older than age 20 who have an ASCUS Pap result should either have the Pap test repeated at six and 12 months or have a reflexive HPV DNA test.

ASCCP guidelines favor HPV DNA testing for adult women with ASCUS Pap results.

Remember to not have sex, douche, or use tampons 24 to 48 hours prior to your Pap smear test.

These can often give false results.

For Further Reading

Other Abnormal Pap Smear Terms to Know: ASCUS isn't the only abnormal result you might get from a Pap smear. Learn about other terms your doctor might use when discussing your abnormal Pap smear results.

What to Expect During Your First Pap Smear: Women should begin having a regular Pap smear about three years after having vaginal intercourse, or by age 21. Women who have never had a Pap smear may feel anxious about having their first screening. Learn more about what to expect here.

Why You Don't Need To Be Afraid of Your Pap Smear: No woman looks forward to having a Pap smear. Some describe as intimidating and uncomfortable. And in some cases, women even avoid having a Pap smear altogether because they dread it so much. But it doesn't have to be this way. By educating yourself, you can focus on the most important issue related to the test: your cervical health.


Mayo Clinic. Pap Smear. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pap-smear/basics/definition/prc-20013038

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