Learning About Cervical Dysplasia

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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 test. If dysplasia is moderate or severe, you may need treatment.

What happens when you have cervical dysplasia?

You may need more tests or you may need treatment. For example, your doctor may suggest:

  • Waiting several months to have repeat testing to see if the dysplasia has gone away on its own.
  • Having an HPV test. Cervical dysplasia is usually caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  • Having a colposcopy. This lets your doctor look at the cervix through a magnifying tool. Your doctor might also take a sample of cells for testing. A colposcopy is usually done before any treatment is given.
  • Having treatment to destroy or remove the abnormal cells.

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

How can you prevent cervical dysplasia?

Cervical dysplasia is usually caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Here are some things you can do to help prevent HPV infection:

  • Use condoms when you have sex. Use them from the beginning to the end of sexual contact.
  • If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the series of HPV shots. It protects against the major types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. If you are age 27 to 45 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.
  • Talk with your partner(s) about sexually transmitted infections before you have sex. Find out if they are at risk for HPV. Be sure to tell them if you have HPV. Even if you don't have symptoms, you can still pass HPV to others.

How is cervical dysplasia treated?

Not everyone with cervical dysplasia needs treatment. If you need treatment, you may have a procedure to destroy the abnormal cells. Or you may have a procedure to remove the abnormal cells, such as a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP).

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 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?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.