Cervical Dysplasia

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Cervical dysplasia facts

  • Cervical dysplasia is precancerous change in the lining cells of the cervix of the uterus.
  • Cervical dysplasia is caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), but other factors also play a role.
  • HPV infection is common in the general population. It is unclear why some women develop dysplasia and cervical cancer related to HPV infection while others do not.
  • Typically, cervical dysplasia does not produce any signs or symptoms.
  • Cervical dysplasia is diagnosed by tissue biopsy from the cervix, vagina, or vulva.
  • Treatment, when necessary, involves ablation (destruction) or resection (removal) of the abnormal area.
  • A vaccine is available against nine common HPV types associated with the development of dysplasia and cervical cancer

What is cervical dysplasia?

Cervical dysplasia refers to the presence of precancerous changes of the cells that make up the surface of the cervix, the opening to the womb (uterus). The term dysplasia refers to the abnormal appearance of the cells when viewed under the microscope. The degree and extent of abnormality seen on a tissue sample biopsy was formerly referred to as mild, moderate, or severe dysplasia. In recent years, this nomenclature has been replaced by a newer system. These systems are based upon changes in the appearance of cells visualized when smears of individual cells (cytological changes) or tissue biopsies (histological changes) are reviewed under a microscope. Pap smears obtain samples of the surface cells to determine if they are normal or abnormal and do not provide a diagnosis, which can only be done by a tissue biopsy.

  1. Pap smears are described according to the degree of abnormality: ASCUS (atypical squamous cells of uncertain significance), LSIL (low grade squamous intraepithelial lesion) and HSIL (high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. Cells from glandular rather than squamous epithelium may also be described.
  2. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) is cervical dysplasia that is a pathological diagnosis based on a cervical biopsy or surgically removed cervix. This is indicated by CIN1 (mild), CIN2 (moderate), CIN III (severe). These are all precancerous conditions.

These classification systems will be further discussed below.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2015
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