The Abnormal PAP/cervical smear: Let’s deal with it

Perhaps this is news that every woman fears to receive – the abnormal PAP smear result. The word ‘abnormal’ itself is enough to send anyone into a worried state. Although your test results are ‘abnormal’, this is most likely not a cancerous state, but a warning sign of pre-cancer that could lead to cancer. This is not the time to panic; it’s the time to be pro-active about your gynaecological health.

The abnormal PAP/cervical smear’s medical term is ‘cervical dysplasia’, which indicates the appearance of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix.

The cervix is a small, cylindrical organ that consists of the lower part and neck of the uterus. It has a central canal for the passage of sperm and menstrual blood and opens during childbirth. It is lined with various cells that produce mucous and protect the organ.

During the routine Pap smear, or cervical examination, the practitioner takes a sampling of these cells from the surface of the cervix. Abnormal cells can be detected by a Pap smear, indicating possible cervical dysplasia. The dysplasia will then be classified depending on the severity of the dysplasia, with I representing normal and V representing cancer. For class II or III, the nutritional recommendations following may be employed by a qualified health practitioner with careful monitoring (getting a Pap smear ever y three months until the results are normal). A biopsy may be ordered for a Class III which does not respond to alternative treatments within 3 months, and a Class IV should always be biopsied.

Risk factors for cervical dysplasia include: early age at first intercourse, multiple sexual partners, Herpes simplex II and human papillomaviruses (sexually transmitted diseases), smoking, oral contraceptive use, and many nutritional factors. Prevention of dysplasia developing into cervical cancer is firstly avoidance of these known risk factors, in particular, the elimination of smoking and oral contraceptive use.

Nutritional deficiencies are implicated in the development of cervical dysplasia, with more than half of all patients with cervical cancer having nutritional deficiencies[1]. Women with low vitamin C levels are 6.7 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women with sufficient vitamin C levels. Many abnormal Pap smears reflect folic acid deficiency rather than true dysplasia. In placebo-controlled studies, folic acid supplementation (10 mg per day) has resulted in improvement or normalisation of Pap smears in patients with cervical dysplasia. Selenium levels are significantly lower in patients with cervical dysplasia. Beta carotene is also vital to reduce the risk of cervical cancer as well as vitamin A. Vitamin B6 is important as decreased status would affect the metabolism of oestrogens and decreased immune response.

Every woman can be proactive about her state of health! We can support you to get there.