The Abnormal Pap Smear and Cervical Dysplasia
Getting abnormal Pap smear results can be worrisome to say the least, especially when words like ‘precancerous’ are mentioned. Understanding the different types of results you may get after a Pap is important not only for peace of mind but for helping you determine your next move.
What Kind of Abnormal Are You?
Abnormal Pap smear results can happen for a few reasons, such as a yeast or other type of vaginal infections or semen from recent sex, but they can also be due to cell changes on and around the cervix which is known as cervical dysplasia. While many cases are mild and most clear up on their own over time, you need to know that dysplasia refers to precancerous cell changes that if left untreated could lead to cervical cancer. But before you panic, remember that the majority of cases of dysplasia will not lead to cervical cancer.
Since there are varying levels of cervical dysplasia there is a scale used by the medical profession to grade the severity of each case. It’s as follows:
CIN1 is mild dysplasia. This is what it is referred to as when abnormal cells are present in a third of the cervical lining.
CIN2 is moderate dysplasia. This is used to refer to two thirds of the lining of the cervix containing abnormal cells.
CIN3 is severe dysplasia. This means that abnormal cells have been found in more than two thirds of cervical lining and up to the thickness of the cervical lining.
The HPV Connection
It is known now that certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are responsible for the majority of cases of dysplasia and cervical cancer cases. More than eighty percent of women have or develop HPV during their adulthood and since many don’t realize that they have it due to its lack of symptoms, you can be infected and not know. This is yet another reason why regular pap smears are so important. Some strains of HPV are responsible for genital warts, though these strains are considered ‘low risk’ as far as cervical cancer goes. The ‘high risk’ strains which do not cause warts are responsible for the precancerous changes we’ve been talking about. You can be infected with more than one strain at a time.
There are HPV tests available and you can request one from your doctor, however pap smears are still the best known way to detect cervical dysplasia and cancer.