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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Are there signs and symptoms of cervical dysplasia?

Typically, cervical dysplasia does not produce any signs or symptoms. So regular Pap smear screening is important for early diagnosis and treatment.

How is cervical dysplasia diagnosed?

Screening for cervical dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer generally develop over a period of years, so regular screening is essential to detect and treat early precancerous changes and prevent cervical cancer. Traditionally, the Papanicolaou test (Pap test or Pap smear) has been the screening method of choice. To perform the Pap smear, the health care practitioner removes a swab or brush sample of cells from the outside of the cervix during a pelvic examination using a speculum in the vagina for visualization. The cells are smeared onto a glass slide, stained, and observed under the microscope for any evidence of abnormal cells.

Newer, liquid-based systems to screen samples of cervical cells are now much more common and are effective screening tools for detection of abnormal cells. The samples for this test are obtained the same way as for the conventional Pap smear, but the sample is placed in a vial of liquid that is later used to prepare a microscope slide for examination as with the Pap smear.

Further testing

For women whose initial screening result is unclear or abnormal, other diagnostic tests are used:

  • Colposcopy is a gynecological procedure that illuminates and magnifies the vulva, vaginal walls, and uterine cervix in order to detect and examine abnormalities of these structures. A colposcope is a microscope that resembles a pair of binoculars. The instrument has a range of magnification lenses. It also has color filters that allow the physician to detect surface abnormalities of the cervix, vagina and vulva.
  • A Biopsy is a tissue sample obtained for examination under the microscope. A biopsy is taken from suspicious surface areas seen during colposcopy. A diagnosis can only be made from a tissue biopsy.
  • HPV testing to detect a "high-risk" type is done if a Pap smear is abnormal or may be recommended for some women. Use of HPV testing alone is being suggested as a replacement for the Pap smear.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2015

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