Simply put, cervical dysplasia “refers to the presence of precancerous changes in the lining cells of the cervix of the uterus,” as defined by MedicineNet. The medical term dysplasia actually alludes to the look of those cells when examined under the microscope – which in this case, is abnormal. This is one of the reasons why it is important for every sexually active woman to get a yearly Pap smear. The Pap smear is the first line of defense for early detection of any abnormal vaginal cells.
Causes and Diagnosis:
Cervical dysplasia is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease. Reportedly, over 75 percent of sexually active women will acquire this virus at some time. Most of those who are affected are young women. HPV does not have symptoms and can, in most cases, resolve itself spontaneously or naturally.
However, with cervical dysplasia, HPV does not naturally resolve. The reason why this happens in some individuals and not in others is vague but advancing age, duration of the infection and being infected with a high-risk HPV are thought to be factors. The Pap smear is definitely the traditional way HPV is first detected. If your screening is unclear or abnormal, additional diagnostic tests will be ordered. Your doctor could choose to do a colposcopy (a procedure where an instrument is used to magnify the walls of the vagina, vulva and uterine cervix). Or, your doctor could choose to do a biopsy on the suspected area.
Treatments and Prognosis:
It is important to remember that low-grade (mild) dysplasia will usually regress naturally, that is, require no medical attention. However, your doctor may still want to monitor you to make sure. Recommended treatment options are ablation (destruction of the abnormal cells) or resection (removal). Ablation is often used for milder dysplasia, but resection is used for more advanced dysplasia or cancer.
The prognosis for low-grade cervical dysplasia is very good due to its tendency to spontaneously regress on its own. On the other hand, if ablation or resection is required, 90 percent of individuals are cured. This will leave a remaining 10 percent that will reportedly experience a reoccurrence and will have to be treated again.
Is Prevention Possible?
There are several preventive steps:
• There is a vaccine (Gardasil) for four common HPV types that have been linked to cervical dysplasia and cancer.
• Condoms provide a limited amount of protection, but are not a reliable option.
• Abstinence is the most reliable option for the prevention of sexually transmitted HPV.
Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer. [Solicitation website link removed by Moderator, per posting guidelines]