During a Pap smear, your doctor removes a sample of cells from your cervix and sends it to a lab for evaluation. This is generally an exam done between the ages of 21-65 If all the cells in your Pap smear are normal, you have negative results. When you have positive results, it means your sample contained some abnormal cells, which is called cervical dysplasia. The report your doctor receives from the lab tells the degree of cervical dysplasia. While there are various stages reported, they essentially range from mild to cancerous. The lab may report that the cells were mildly abnormal and likely caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It could also say that moderate to severe precancerous or cancerous changes were identified.
When your test reports mild changes suggestive of an HPV infection, your doctor may wait a few months then take another Pap smear. In most cases, an HPV infection clears up without causing problems, so a follow-up test should be negative. When your test reveals moderate to severe changes, and when a second Pap smear still shows HPV, you’ll undergo a colposcopy