Abnormal Pap After Hysterectomy

Last Modified: January 27, 2009

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer 2 years ago. She had a complete hysterectomy, followed with radiation. Her first Pap smears following this were normal. However, recently, she got an abnormal Pap back. The letter from the doc's office says it was probably due to radiation and another Pap will be done in 6 months. Is this something to be concerned about?

Answer

Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

It is not uncommon for patients to have irregularities on their Pap tests after radiation therapy, and generally, a follow up Pap is a reasonable approach. If your mother never had abnormal Paps prior to her surgery, it is unlikely that she has developed new vaginal dysplasia (or precancer). Often, the exact wording on the Pap test report is what physicians use to determine their level of suspicion for vaginal precancer, recurrence of endometrial cancer, or just changes due to age and radiation.