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The cervix is the lower narrow end of a woman's uterus. It opens into the vagina (the birth canal). The cervix is covered by a thin layer of tissue. This tissue is like the skin inside your mouth.
The Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear or cervical cytology screening, is an important part of women's health care. This test looks at cells taken from the cervix.
Your results will be placed in one of several groups:
Normal (negative): There are no signs of cancer or pre-cancer.
Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: Changes are seen in the cells that may show signs of pre-cancer.
Early: mild changes are seen in the cells.
Moderate or severe cell changes are seen.
Atypical glandular cells: Cell changes show that further testing is needed because of an increased risk of pre-cancer or cancer of the cervix, uterus or other female reproductive organs.
Cancer: Abnormal cells have spread deeper into the cervix or to other tissues.
A woman who receives an abnormal Pap test result may need further testing. Sometimes you may only need a repeat Pap test because many cell changes go away on their own. Further testing methods such as colposcopy and biopsy can help identify the reason for the abnormal test result.
Colposcopy lets your doctor look at the cervix through a special device similar to a microscope. It can detect problems of the cervix that cannot be seen with the eye alone.
If an area of abnormal cells is seen, your doctor may decide that a cervical biopsy is needed.
Treatment of cervical changes depends on the severity of the problem and include a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ), cold coagulation and cone biopsy. A follow up smear is always indicated post treatment.