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Cervical Dysplasia

What is Cervical dysplasia

  • Cervical dysplasia is precancerous changes of the cells that make up the lining of the cervix, the opening to the womb (uterus).
  • These changes are detected by microscopic analysis of cell samples taken from the cervix during a pelvic exam (such as from a Pap smear).
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion is the pathology term used to refer to cervical dysplasia observed in smears of cells taken from the cervix.
  • Squamous refers to the type of cells on the cervix; intraepithelial refers to the fact that these cells are present in the lining tissue of the cervix.
  • When cervical dysplasia is seen in a biopsy of tissue rather than a cell smear, it is referred to as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

Cervical Dysplasia Causes

Cervical dysplasia is caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common infection that is transmitted through sexual contact. Most new HPV infections occur in young (ages 15-25) women. Most HPV infections do not produce any symptoms and resolve spontaneously.

Some HPV infections persist over time rather than resolve, although the reason why this happens is not clear. Persistent HPV infection may lead to the development of genital warts, precancerous changes (cervical dysplasia) of the uterine cervix, as well as cervical cancer. Since not all women who have HPV infection develop cancer, additional factors must also be present to cause cervical dysplasia and cancer.

Certain HPV types typically cause genital warts or mild dysplasia ("low-risk" types; HPV-6, HPV-11), while other types (known as "high-risk" HPV types) are more strongly associated with severe dysplasia and cervical cancer (HPV-16, HPV-18).

Since HPV infections are transmitted primarily by sexual contact, the risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners a person has. Cigarette smoking and suppression of the immune system (such as with HIV infection) are also known to increase the risk for HPV-induced dysplasia and cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017

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