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Learning About Cervical Dysplasia

Female reproductive system

What is cervical dysplasia?

Cervical dysplasia is a change in some of the cells on your cervix. These abnormal cells are not cancer.

Most dysplasia goes away on its own and doesn't cause problems. But in some cases, dysplasia grows into cancer over a period of years.

If your doctor finds dysplasia early, you may be able to wait and see how it looks on your next Pap test. If dysplasia is severe, treatment is best.

What happens when you have cervical dysplasia?

Depending on the type of dysplasia you have, your doctor may suggest:

  • Waiting several months to have repeat testing to see if the dysplasia goes away on its own.
  • Having other tests. You may be referred to a gynecologist for a colposcopy. A colposcopy lets your doctor look at the cervix through a magnifying tool. During the colposcopy, the doctor might also take a sample of cells for testing.
  • Treating the dysplasia.

Depending on your age and the kind of cervical dysplasia you have, you may have an HPV test. HPV testing is not available in all areas of Canada.

Even after treatment, dysplasia sometimes comes back. This is why it's important to follow up with your doctor and have regular Pap tests.

How can you prevent cervical dysplasia?

Cervical dysplasia is usually caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Many types of HPV cause warts, and a few types cause cancer. Like dysplasia, HPV often goes away without treatment.

  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Use them from the beginning to the end of sexual contact. This will help prevent HPV infection.
  • The series of HPV shots protects against the major types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the HPV shot for females 9 through 26 years old, and it is approved for women up to age 45. Check with your doctor to find the HPV vaccine recommendations in your area.
  • Be sure to tell your sex partner or partners if you have HPV. Even if you don't have symptoms, you can still pass HPV to others.

How is cervical dysplasia treated?

If needed, your doctor can treat mild cervical dysplasia by freezing or lasering the abnormal cells. More severe dysplasia is usually treated by cutting out the abnormal cells.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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