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Diseases & Conditions

Cervical Dysplasia

What is cervical dysplasia?

Cervical dysplasia describes the presence of abnormal, precancerous cells in the canal of or on the surface of the cervix (opening of the uterus that leads into the vagina). The term "plasia" means growth, and dysplasia means "disordered growth."

What causes cervical dysplasia?

The condition has been linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 70 strains of HPV and more than one third of them can be sexually transmitted. Some strains cause warts, including genital warts, while others may lead to cancer.

In addition, the body’s immune system may also play a role in the development of cervical dysplasia. Women whose immune systems are suppressed by certain prescription drugs or by HIV or smoking are at a higher risk for developing cervical dysplasia.

What are the risk factors for cervical dysplasia?

A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Risk factors that can affect the development of cervical dysplasia include cigarette smoking and having multiple sexual partners.

How is cervical dysplasia diagnosed?

A Pap smear is required to diagnose cervical dysplasia as a pelvic examination is usually normal in a woman with this condition. The Pap smear can show mild, moderate, or severe dysplasia.

A colposcopy may be performed if the Pap smear is abnormal. This procedure involves using a small magnifying device to detect abnormal cells, so that biopsies may be taken. A procedure called an endocervical curettage may be done to make sure that there are no abnormal cells in the cervical canal. In some cases, a cone biopsy or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) is used to rule out invasive cancer. In the cone biopsy procedure, the doctor removes a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. This tissue is checked for cancer cells. In the LEEP procedure, the doctor uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out abnormal tissue to be checked for cancer cells.

How is cervical dysplasia treated?

The treatment of this condition depends upon the degree of dysplasia that is present. The least complicated treatment (for mild dysplasia) is careful observation with repeat Pap smears every three to six months. In more involved cases of dysplasia, abnormal tissue may be removed with cryosurgery (freezing), laser surgery, traditional surgery, or by a LEEP procedure.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/7/2010...#12323