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Cervical dysplasia

Contents of this page:


Female reproductive anatomy
Female reproductive anatomy
Cervical neoplasia
Cervical neoplasia
Cervical dysplasia - series
Cervical dysplasia - series

Alternative Names    Return to top

Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN); Precancerous changes of the cervix

Definition    Return to top

Cervical dysplasia is the abnormal growth of cells on the surface of the cervix. Although this is not cancer, it is considered a precancerous condition.

Cervical dysplasia is grouped into three categories:

Causes    Return to top

Most cases of cervical dysplasia occur in women aged 25 to 35, although it can develop at any age.

While all causes of cervical dysplasia are not known, most cases of cervical cancer and severe dyplasia are caused by infection of the cervix with a persistent, high-risk strain of human papilloma virus (HPV).

The following may increase your risk of cervical dysplasia:

Symptoms    Return to top

There are usually no symptoms.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

A pelvic examination is usually normal.

A Pap smear shows abnormal cells. A colposcopy-directed biopsy is done to confirm the condition and determine its severity.

Other tests may be done to find out if the abnormal cells have spread outside the cervix. These include:

Treatment    Return to top

Treatment depends on the degree of dysplasia. Mild dysplasia may go away on its own. You may only need careful observation by your doctor with repeat Pap smears every 3 to 6 months.

Treatment for moderate-to-severe dysplasia or dysplasia that does not go away may include:

Rarely, a hysterectomy may be recommended. Women with dysplasia need consistent follow-up, usually every 3 to 6 months or as recommended by their provider.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment cures nearly all cases of cervical dysplasia.

Without treatment, 30 - 50% of cases of severe cervical dysplasia may lead to invasive cancer. The risk of cancer is lower for mild dysplasia.

Possible Complications    Return to top

The condition may return.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you are a woman who has been sexually active for 3 years or you are age 21 or older and have never had a pelvic examination and Pap smear.

See: Physical exam frequency

Prevention    Return to top

To reduce the chance of developing cervical dysplasia:

References    Return to top

ACOG Pratice Bulletin No. 99: management of abnormal cervical cytology and histology. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112(6):1419-44.

Committee on Adolescent Health Care: ACOG Working Group on Immunization. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 344: Human papillomavirus vaccination. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108(3pt1):699-705.

Noller KL. Intraepithelial Neoplasia of the Lower Genital Tract (Cervix, Vulva) : Etiology, Screening, Diagnostic Techniques, Management. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007: chap. 28.

Wright TC Jr, Massad LS, Dunton CJ, et al. American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology-sponsored Consensus Conference. 2006 consensus guidelines for the management of women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or adenocarcihnoma in situ. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007;197(4):340-345.

Wright TC Jr, Massad LS, Dunton CJ, et al. American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology-sponsored Consensus Conference. 2006 consensus guidelines for the management of women with abnormal cervical cancer screening tests. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007;197(4):346-55.

Update Date: 4/17/2009

Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, WA; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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