Defining cervical dysplasia

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Cervical dysplasia (diss-PLAY-zhuh) is the abnormal growth of cells on the cervix. Dysplasia is not cancer, and does not spread to other parts of the body. But if left untreated for years, it can become cancerous. Smoking, having multiple sex partners, and intercourse at an early age can increase your risk of developing cervical dysplasia. Most cases are caused by human papilloma (pap-ih-LOE-mah) viruses, or H-P-V, which are sexually transmitted. When H-P-V infects the cervix, it has no symptoms, and can only be detected by a Pap smear. By the time bleeding or other symptoms occur, cancer has usually set in, and treatment is more difficult. Fortunately, cervical dysplasia tends to grow slowly; therefore, yearly Pap exams offer an excellent chance to catch and treat the condition. In extremely mild cases of H-P-V infection, the body's own immune system may correct the problem. Otherwise, there are several treatment options, which involve destroying or removing the abnormal cells, so healthy ones can replace them. The bad cells may be frozen, cut out with an electrical loop, burned away by laser, or removed in a cone biopsy. The cure rate for all these procedures is about 95 percent. To some extent, the method used may depend on the number and position of abnormal cells. For more information on cervical dysplasia, consult a health care provider.

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