What is an ASCUS Pap Smear?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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An ASCUS Pap smear is a Pap smear result in which the patient has a benign level of abnormality in her cervical cells. ASCUS stands for atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance. Having an ASCUS result does not necessarily mean disease is present. It does mean the test has uncovered a few cells which deviate from a normal cellular appearance.

There could be various causes of an ASCUS Pap smear. For instance, the use of tampons, vaginal jellies, diaphragms, creams, and douches and even having sex could lead to the cellular changes found in a Pap smear. Also, there are cases where inflammation associated with viral infection or bacterial infection could cause the ASCUS Pap smear result, such as a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. In addition, cells shed from the uterus lining before the start of the menstrual period could be detected by a Pap test done at the end of the menstrual cycle and could result in an ASCUS result.

The ASCUS Pap smear result might seem frightening, however, an ASCUS result is not dangerous in most cases. It does not necessarily mean there is an immediate risk of cervical cancer. A small percentage of the time, atypical cells could become cervical lesions, but this is rare. As a general rule, in a large percentage of women, ASCUS Pap test results will tend to become normal within three months.


It is typically useful to have follow-up Pap testing done on a regular basis after an ASCUS Pap test result. Further monitoring or treatment is necessary to prevent cervical cancer. Physicians often recommend a schedule of re-testing consistent with the age and other needs of the patient.

For women age 20 or younger who get an ASCUS Pap test result, the Pap test is redone in approximately 12 months. Adult women who get an ASCUS Pap test result typically get a repeat Pap test every six months. This enables the continued assessment of cervical cells to determine if there is any presence of cervical cancer.


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Post 2

@Ceptorbi - that's a good point. Abnormal pap smear causes include numerous non-cancerous causes like infections. Atypical results don't necessarily mean cancer. If cancer is detected, though, the fact that the patient had a pap smear to reveal the disease's presence can be a lifesaver.

Post 1

When I had an abnormal pap smear, I had to have a biopsy. The biopsy was benign and I turned out to have a hormonal problem easily correctible by medication. In other words, an abnormal pap smear doesn't necessarily mean cancer.

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