Ask the Doctor
January 17, 2012
Mother’s smear shows ‘suspicious changes’. How is it possible?

Dear Doc,

My mother has been getting her pap-smears done annually by her doctor and was called last week, after her most recent test, to be told that she has suspicious changes, requiring possible surgery. How is this possible? She never missed a pap-smear for the past ten years.{{more}}


Dear Lucretia,

There are scenarios whereby a poor smear can be taken and thus misses the cells which are developing into a cancer, or indeed you can have aggressive cancers that grow rapidly over a short period of time.

Irrespective of the reason that can be debated, it strengthens the notion that it is important that pap-smears be done annually and that persons don’t miss or skip any year. We cannot predict when an aggressive cancer develops or when a poor smear is taken so we can have faith in changes being found before full-fledged cancers develop.

What is re-assuring about your mother’s smear is that it shows ‘suspicious changes’. This is not bad news, as it is why we do pap-smears; that is to find changes that can lead to cancer and stop it in its tracks.

Your doctor is on the ball and should be encouraged in his or her good work.


SVG Cancer Society,

P.O. Box 709, Kingstown.


Phone: 526-7036