Abnormal Pap Smear and Yeast Infection

Abnormal Pap smears and yeast infections are two common findings during routine gynecologic exams, according to the Encyclopedia of Family Health. Although both are common, they can be a source of consternation for women. Even though the Pap smear is a test designed to screen for cervical cancer, a result reported as abnormal does not confirm a diagnosis. There are four levels of abnormal results that indicate different risk levels for cervical cancer. Yeast infections are common treatable infections found in women of all ages.

All women can be affected by abnormal Pap smears and yeast infections. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Significance

Pap smears are a fairly simple, cost-effective way for health care practitioners to screen women for increased risk of cervical cancer. When an abnormal result is found, the practitioner is guided, depending on the type of result, to a decision of watchful-waiting and retesting versus more invasive diagnostic testing. Early detection of cervical cancer with a Pap smear can make a significant difference in a woman's ability to receive proper early treatment and eventual survival rates.

Finding of ASCUS

The most common abnormal Pap smear result reported is a finding of ASCUS, which denotes "atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance." Squamous cells grow on the outside of a healthy cervix and are usually captured for testing by the Pap smear. ASCUS implies that the cells tested were not completely normal. However, there is no indication that the cells are precancerous. Health care providers will generally decide to follow the path of watchful waiting following an ASCUS result and perform another PAP smear a year later. ASCUS results can be found in conjunction with certain viruses that promote cancer, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV). If this virus is found to be present, the health care provider may choose to do further testing.

Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion

Another possible abnormal Pap smear result is Squamous intraepithelial lesion, which may be further categorized into low grade and high grade. In this case, the cells that were tested may be classified as precancerous. A finding of low grade indicates that any precancerous cells would be likely slow growing and therefore take many years to become cancer. If the cells are classified as high grade, there is a greater likelihood that cancer could develop in the near future.

Atypical Glandular Cells

Atypical glandular cells is the third possible abnormal Pap smear result that is usually reported. Glandular cells are found in the opening of the cervix and within the uterus. A finding of atypical glandular cells requires further testing since it does not have a clear connection to the development of cervical cancer.

Squamous cell cancer or Adenocarcinoma cells are the most worrisome of the possible abnormal Pap smear results. This finding is reported if it is nearly certain that cervical cancer is present. If such cells are found, the health care provider will immediately recommend further testing for diagnosis.

Yeast Infections

Vaginal yeast infections, caused by Candida albicans, are a source of embarrassment and discomfort for many women. The symptoms include thick, white vaginal discharge accompanied by intense sensations of itching in the vagina and vulva. Symptoms of yeast infections often occur just prior to menstruation and may also be associated with diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, immunosuppression and hormone replacement therapy. Recommended treatment for vaginal yeast infections is usually an over-the-counter antifungal topical cream applied directly to the vagina. If the yeast infection is particularly resistant to treatment, a doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication.

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