Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia is a precancerous condition in which abnormal cells grow on the surface of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your uterus that’s attached to the top portion of your vagina. Another name for cervical dysplasia is cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN. “Intraepithelial” means that the abnormal cells are present on the surface (epithelial tissue) of your cervix and have not grown past that surface layer. The word “neoplasia” refers to the growth of abnormal cells.

Symptoms of Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia doesn’t usually cause symptoms. Instead, your healthcare provider may diagnose you with cervical dysplasia after finding abnormal cells during a routine Pap smear. Some people may have irregular vaginal spotting or spotting after intercourse.

Causes of Cervical Dysplasia

You can get cervical dysplasia if you become infected with HPV, a virus that’s spread through sexual contact. In many cases, your immune system will get rid of the virus. Over 100 strains of HPV exist. Some strains, such as HPV-16 and HPV-18, are more likely to infect your reproductive tract and cause cervical dysplasia. Often, the infections go away without causing permanent problems. In rare cases, abnormal cells form over time, leading to cervical dysplasia.

Diagnostics of Cervical Dysplasia

Your healthcare provider will most likely notice signs of cervical dysplasia during a routine Pap smear. If the Pap smear is unclear or reveals abnormal cells, the next step might be a colposcopy to examine your cervix.

A colposcopy can take place in your healthcare provider’s office. During the procedure, your healthcare provider looks through a lighted instrument called a colposcope to check for abnormal cells in your cervix or vaginal walls.

Your healthcare provider might perform a biopsy to remove tissue samples that’ll be examined in a laboratory. They may order a DNA test to see whether a high-risk form of HPV is present, too.

Treatment of Cervical Dysplasia

Treatment depends on various factors, including the severity of your cervical dysplasia, age, health and treatment preferences. Procedures to treat cervical dysplasia can impact future pregnancies. Speak with your healthcare provider about treatments available to you if you’re pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant in the future.

With low-grade cervical dysplasia, classified as CIN 1, you likely won’t need treatment. In the majority of these cases, the condition goes away on its own. Only about 1% of cases progress to cervical cancer. Your healthcare provider may choose a conservative approach that calls for periodic Pap smears to monitor any changes in abnormal cells.

If your cervical dysplasia is more severe (CIN 1 or CIN 2), your healthcare provider can remove the abnormal cells that may become cancerous or destroy them.

These procedures may include:

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a small, electrically charged wire loop to remove tissue. LEEP can also remove tissue samples for further analysis. About 1% to 2% of people may experience complications following the procedure, such as delayed bleeding or narrowing of their cervix (stenosis).
  • Cold knife cone biopsy (conization) involves your healthcare provider removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells. It was once the preferred method of treating cervical dysplasia, but now it’s reserved for more severe cases. Conization can provide a sample of tissue for further testing. It has a somewhat higher risk of complications, including cervical stenosis and postoperative bleeding.
  • Hysterectomy involves removing your uterus. A hysterectomy may be an option in cases where cervical dysplasia persists or doesn’t improve after other procedures.

Removing or destroying the abnormal cells cures cervical dysplasia in about 90% of all cases. Cervical dysplasia rarely progresses to cancer. When it does progress, it does so very slowly, allowing time for your healthcare provider to intervene.