Cervical dysplasia is the abnormal growth of cells on the surface lining of the cervix, which is located at the lower part of the uterus and opens into the vagina. Cervical dysplasia is more common in sexually active women between the ages of 25 and 35, however it can occur at any age in sexually active women. Cervical dysplasia is often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common viral infection transmitted by sexual contact. Cervical dysplasia usually has no noticeable symptoms, and often remains unnoticed until it is discovered during a gynecological examination.
Risk Factors of Cervical Dysplasia
Females at an increased risk of developing cervical dysplasia may include those who:
- Are sexually active before the age of 18
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Gave birth before the age of 16
In addition, women who smoke or have a weakened immune system due to illness or immune-suppressing medications, may be at a higher risk for cervical dysplasia.
Diagnosis of Cervical Dysplasia
Cervical dysplasia is commonly diagnosed during a routine gynecological exam, which includes a pelvic examination and a Pap smear. The Pap smear identifies the abnormal cell growth associated with cervical dysplasia. If abnormal cell growth appears to be severe, additional testing may be performed which may include:
- Repeat Pap test
- Cone biopsy
Tissue samples from these tests are sent to a pathology lab to further identify the cell abnormalities and assist the doctor in determining if any treatment is necessary for the cervical dysplasia.
Treatment Cervical Dysplasia
Depending on the severity, treatment for cervical dysplasia varies. Most cases of mild cervical dysplasia often go away on their own, with no treatment necessary. Severe cases of cervical dysplasia may require cryosurgery, electrocauterization, or the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove abnormal growths or tissue.
Early diagnosis and treatment of cervical dysplasia can successfully cure most cases of cervical dysplasia. However, the condition sometimes returns. Follow-up monitoring after treatment for cervical dysplasia is recommended generally every six months. Without treatment, severe cases of cervical dysplasia may become cancerous.
Prevention of Cervical Dysplasia
The risk of cervical dysplasia may be reduced by the HPV vaccine. This vaccination is available to females between the ages of 9 and 26 and is effective against certain strains of HPV. In addition, cervical dysplasia may be prevented by following these recommendations:
- Do not smoke
- Practice safe sex and use a condom
- Do not engage in sexual activity before the age of 18
Practicing monogamy or limiting the number of sexual partners may also be effective at reducing the risk of cervical dysplasia.