Alternate Names : Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN), Precancerous Changes of the Cervix
Cervical dysplasia is a condition in which a woman has abnormal changes in the
top layer of cells of her cervix. The cervix is the opening between the vagina
and the uterus. The changes are local and have not spread more deeply into the
cervix or to other sites in the body.
What is going on in the body?
The cells of the cervix take months or even years to go through precancerous stages
before full-blown cancer occurs. These changes are called cervical dysplasia.
Catching and treating the changes early can prevent cancer of the cervix.
The cervix is the opening to the uterus. While it is located within a woman's
vagina, its cells act very much like skin cells. The cells are exposed to
toxins, viruses, and bacteria that may cause abnormal changes.
Each stage of dysplasia, or abnormal changes in the cells, is judged by the
thickness of the cells that are abnormal. The earliest microscopic change is
mild dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, also referred to as CIN 1. If not treated,
the precancerous changes may become moderate (CIN 2) and then severe (CIN
3). The fourth and most severe stage of dysplasia is called carcinoma in
situ, or CIS. After that, cancer cells may invade deeper layers of
the cervix or spread to nearby sites. At that point it is called invasive
cancer of the cervix.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Cervical dysplasia is a precursor to cancer of the cervix, which is the second most
cancer of the female reproductive system. It occurs most often among women aged
40 to 55.
No one knows exactly what causes the abnormal changes that we call cervical
dysplasia. Certain health problems, lifestyle choices, and other factors may
raise a woman's risk for this. These include the following:
having had a sexually
transmitted disease. Both
chlamydia and human
papilloma virus infections are strongly associated with cervical
dysplasia and cancer of the
having had an abnormal Pap
smear. A Pap smear is an examination, under a microscope, of cells
scraped from the cervix.
becoming sexually active before age 18
having had more than 3 sexual partners
condoms with new sexual partners
having had cancer of the vagina or vulva
having a sexual partner whose previous partner had cancer of the cervix
or cervical dysplasia, a
condition of abnormal cells that precedes cancer
having a sexual partner who has or has had cancer of the penis
having a weakened immune system, for example, as a result of HIV or another immunodeficiency disorder
being the daughter of a woman who took DES, or
diethylstilbestrol, during pregnancy
a history of cancer of the cervix in a woman's sister or mother