Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(11):2373

What did my Pap smear show?

A Pap smear allows your doctor to look at cells from your cervix to see if there are any problems. Your Pap smear has shown one or more of the following changes. Ask your doctor which of these changes you have.


ASCUS (say “ask-us”) stands for atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance. The squamous cells of your cervix were slightly abnormal on your Pap smear. ASCUS may be caused by a vaginal infection or an infection with a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus, or wart virus). Your doctor will talk with you about the options of looking at your cervix with a microscope (colposcopy) or repeating your Pap smear every six months for two years.


AGUS stands for atypical glandular cells of undetermined significance. These cells were slightly abnormal on your Pap smear. AGUS can occur with infections or with a change in the cells on the surface of your cervix or in the canal of your cervix. Your doctor will tell you how the abnormal results on your Pap smear need to be evaluated. Your doctor may recommend repeat Pap smears or colposcopy.


LSIL stands for low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. This is a common condition of the cells of the cervix and often occurs when the HPV wart virus is present. These changes in the cervix can be present even if you and your sexual partner are monogamous and have never had visible warts. Changes caused by LSIL often get better with time. Your doctor will talk with you about whether you need to have Pap smears every six months for two years or whether you should have colposcopy.


If inflammation (redness) is present in the cells on the Pap smear, it means that some white blood cells were seen on your Pap smear. Inflammation of the cervix is common and usually does not mean there is a problem. If the Pap smear showed that the inflammation is severe, your doctor may want to find the cause, such as an infection. You may also need to have another Pap smear in six months to see if the inflammation has gone.


Hyperkeratosis is a finding of dried skin cells on your Pap smear. This change in the cells of the cervix often occurs from cervical cap or diaphragm use or from infection. Hyperkeratosis usually does not need any more evaluation than a repeat Pap smear in six months. If it is still present on the repeat Pap smear, your doctor may want to repeat the test in another six months or perform colposcopy.

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.