Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia at a glance

  • Cervical dysplasia is the growth of abnormal cells on the surface tissue of a woman’s cervix (the lower, narrow part of the uterus that extends to the vagina).
  • Cervical dysplasia can be mild to severe depending on the amount of abnormal cells.
  • It is considered a pre-cancerous condition, but does not cause symptoms.
  • Cervical dysplasia is often caused by an HPV infection.
  • With mild dysplasia, often no treatment is needed and the condition does not become cancerous; severe dysplasia may require removal of abnormal cells.
  • After treatment, a routine Pap smear to watch for redevelopment is recommended.

Symptoms of cervical dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia is not cancer, but is considered a pre-cancerous condition.

It usually does not evidence symptoms and is often discovered by a routine Pap smear. This condition is easily treatable, and can be caught early on before it develops into cancer.

Causes of cervical dysplasia

In many cases of cervical dysplasia, an HPV infection is the cause. HPV is extremely common in women and men, and is especially likely to strike sexually active women under age 20.

HPV is usually passed from person to person during sexual contact such as vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, or oral sex, but it also can be transmitted by contact with the genital skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids of an infected person.

Once established, the virus is capable of spreading from one part of the body to another, including the cervix. If the body does not rid itself of the HPV infection, it can lead to cervical dysplasia.

Women aged 25 through 35 are most at risk for developing cervical dysplasia. If the condition is not detected or left untreated it can lead to cervical cancer.

A woman can be at risk for developing this condition if she:

  • Has had multiple sexual partners
  • Is sexually active before age 18
  • Gives birth before age 16
  • Has had a sexually transmitted disease such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), genital warts or HIV

Cervical dysplasia treatment

University of Colorado Division of General OB/GYN offers a cervical dysplasia care program that uses advanced methods and treatment technologies that can prevent cervical dysplasia from becoming cancerous.

Mild dysplasia rarely becomes cancerous, and will often resolve itself without treatment. A follow-up exam within one year of finding cervical dysplasia will check for any changes.

With severe dysplasia, the doctor may recommend surgery or other procedures to remove the abnormal cells.

After an abnormality is detected on a Pap smear, the OB/GYN may recommend more tests, including a human papillomavirus (HPV) test and colposcopy. Colposcopy is an examination of your cervix, vagina and vulva using a magnifying instrument to determine where the abnormal cells are and the level of abnormality.

Women who have any kind of cervical dysplasia should have a Pap smear at least every six months, or more frequently if advised by a physician, a yearly HPV test can help monitor the condition for recurrence. After two consecutive normal Pap smears, most women return to annual testing if they have had severe cervical dysplasia and every three years for those who have had mild cervical dysplasia.