Glandular cells of the female reproductive organs

Glandular cells are a type of cell found in the cervix and the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Glandular cells are involved in the menstrual cycle and in the production of cervical mucus.

Glandular cells found on a Pap test may be normal, abnormal, or cancerous. Abnormal cells, called atypical glandular cells (AGCs), require follow-up with colposcopy and endocervical biopsy to determine how serious the cell changes are and what treatment is needed.

Cervical biopsy may be done at the time of the colposcopy to further classify the abnormal glandular cells.1 A cone biopsy may be recommended. An endometrial biopsy may be recommended for women older than age 35 when AGCs are present.

Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) for high-risk HPV types may also be recommended when abnormal cells are present because high-risk types of HPV are associated with cervical cancer. More research is being done to study the role of HPV testing when AGCs are found.1 For more information, see the medical test Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test.


If the results of colposcopy and the biopsy are negative, watchful waiting with Pap tests every 4 to 6 months may be recommended.

If any of the results of colposcopy and the biopsy are positive, a cone biopsy may be recommended.1

Although an abnormal Pap test result of AGC is not as common as other cervical cell abnormalities, follow-up is very important so your doctor can watch for more severe cell changes, including cancer.


  1. Kaferle JE, Malouin JM (2001). Evaluation and management of the AGUS Papanicolaou smear. American Family Physician, 63(11): 2239–2244.

Last Updated: January 5, 2009

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