Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Abnormal Pap Smears?
No, having an ovarian cyst will not cause an abnormal pap smear. An abnormal Pap smear, also known as an abnormal cervical cytology, is the result of a cervical cancer screening test that shows the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix. These abnormal cells may be precancerous or cancerous and usually will require further testing or treatment. Your gynecologist or primary care doctor will discuss and determine next steps based on the details of this.
A pap smear can not detect the presence of an ovarian cyst. An ovarian cyst can be found on a pelvic exam if it is a large ovarian cyst. During a pelvic exam, a gynecologist can feel lumps or masses. An ovarian cyst can also be detected on an ultrasound of the ovaries.
A pap smear is done in the cervix, which is located in the uterus. An ovarian cyst occurs in the ovaries. The ovaries and uterus are anatomically separated by the fallopian tubes. Therefore, from a physical standpoint a cyst in the ovary would have no impact on the results of a test like a pap smear done in the cervix.
What Can Cause An Abnormal Pap Smears Besides HPV?
HPV, which stands for the Human Papilloma Virus, is the biggest risk factor for having cervical cancer. Specifically the high risk strains are more associated with cervical cancer and abnormal pap smears. The vast majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV type 16 and type 18. Human cells that that have the HPV virus do look different when looked at under a microscope.
All abnormal pap smears do not indicate the presence of cancer. But, all abnormal pap smears should be worked up further to ensure that there are no cancerous cells present.
Although it is not very common, there are some things that can cause abnormal pap smears. One study showed that the prevalence of abnormal pap smears was high in patients who had inflammatory bowel disease and were also on immunosuppressive therapy (1).
In some cases, the pap smear can say that there is an abnormality when there is not. This is called a false positive. Although they are not common, they can happen.
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Normal Pap Smear Positive HPV
If you have a normal pap smear but are positive for HPV, you should get a repeat pap smear in a year. It is possible that your body can clear the HPV infection, but it may not. It is also possible that HPV could cause abnormal cell changes, and this is why close follow up with your Gynecologist is so important.
(1) Brunner A, Kruis W, Schömig-Markiefka B, et al. Prevalence of abnormal Pap smear results in inflammatory bowel disease: a prospective study.J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2022;148(11):3071-3079.
(2) Burd EM. Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003;16(1):1-17.