An abnormal Pap test can indicate the presence of cancer or an increased risk of cancer, but more commonly, it can indicate non-cancerous issues like yeast infections, hormonal fluctuations, or infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Most HPV infections clear up on their own, but some can cause genital warts. If the results of a Pap smear are abnormal, a second Pap test may be ordered, or a different diagnostic exam called a colposcopy may be performed.
A colposcopy uses a lighted magnifying lens and a special solution to view the cervix and the surrounding tissues so small tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken for additional evaluation in a lab. Other diagnostic tests may also be ordered.