What is cervical dysplasia?
Cervical dysplasia means that the cells in the cervix or the endocervical canal are not growing in a normal, organized fashion. In other words, the cells are pre-cancerous. Another term for dysplasia is Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (SIL). SIL can range from low-grade to high-grade. This will depend on the extent of the cell changes. Cervical dysplasia or SIL is not cancer, but it may become cancer if left untreated. When a patient has cervical dysplasia, the results of a pap smear will be abnormal.
There are usually no symptoms in patients with cervical dysplasia. However, if the dysplasia progresses to cervical cancer, the symptoms may include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Unusual vaginal discharge
Pain during sex
The risk of cervical dysplasia progressing to cancer is very low, especially for mild cases and early dysplasia diagnosis. However, regular pap smears should be done to ensure that the cells are normal.
Causes of Cervical Dysplasia or SIL
Researchers now believe that the majority of dysplasia is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is present in up to 50 percent of sexually active people, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is possible to become infected with this virus and not show any signs for years. The HPV vaccine, when taken before an individual is sexually active, can strongly prevent cervical dysplasia or cancer.
Smoking, taking drugs or treatments that weaken the immune system can increase a woman’s risk of developing dysplasia.
Treatment and Prevention
If SIL is reported on a pap smear, it is likely that a gynecologist will recommend that you have a colposcopy, or an evaluation of the cervix. In some cases, gynecologists may recommend a biopsy. If the biopsy confirms cervical dysplasia, it is categorized by mild, moderate, and severe.
The results of the biopsy will determine if further treatment is necessary. Many times, low-grade SIL will resolve spontaneously, but it could progress into a more serious case. Follow-up is necessary to prevent progression to cancer.
There are also ways for patients to take preventative measures against dysplasia, including:
Get the HPV vaccination (ideally before becoming sexually active)
Always use a condom during sex
Minimize the number of sexual partners that you have at one time
At Gynecology & Laparoscopic Surgeons, PC, we highly recommended that you visit a gynecologist regularly to check your general cervical health. Getting pap smears on a regular basis is suggested for women who have been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia in order to make sure that the condition does not become cancerous. For more information about cervical dysplasia or to talk to a gynecologist, contact us today.