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ASCUS Pap Smear Results

What does an ASCUS Pap smear result mean?

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Updated May 30, 2014

An ASCUS (ASC-US or ASC) Pap smear is the most common type of abnormal Pap smear result. ASCUS is an acronym for atypical cells of undetermined significance and indicates mild cellular cervical changes with an unknown cause. While an ASCUS Pap smear result may sound alarming, it is considered mildly abnormal. There is no immediate cervical cancer risk in an ASCUS Pap smear result.

The Causes of ASCUS Pap Smear Results

A common cause of ASCUS Pap smears are minor infection and cervical inflammation. Infection and inflammation can cause cervical cells to appear abnormal, but eventually return to a normal appearance.

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 require further monitoring and possible treatment to prevent cervical cancer.

Read More About HPV:
Rarely, invasive cervical cancer may be detected through further examination and testing.

For adolescents and young women, ASCUS Pap smear results are as often or more often caused by HPV infection than a vaginal infection or cervical inflammation. In older women, ASCUS results are more often because of vaginal infection or cervical inflammation, not an infection of HPV.

Managing an ASCUS Pap Smear Result

The method in which a doctor manages an ASCUS pap smear result varies. New guidelines set forth by American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) recommend:

Adolescent Women (age 20 and younger): For young women with an ASCUS Pap smear result, the test is repeated in 12 months.

Adult Women: Adult women with an ASCUS Pap result will either have the Pap test repeated at 6 and 12 months or have a reflexive HPV DNA test. A reflexive HPV DNA test utilizes the sample used for the Pap smear and eliminates the need for another sampling. ASCCP guidelines favor HPV DNA testing for adult women with ASCUS Pap results.

An HPV DNA test is performed just like a Pap smear. The test detects the presence of a high risk HPV infection that could potentially lead to cervical pre-cancer or cancer if left unmonitored or untreated.

Sources:

"Pap Test: What is a Pap Test." 02 Feb 2003. American Cancer Society.

"The Pap Test Questions and Answers." Dec 2003. National Cancer Institute.

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