Cervical Dysplasia



Cervical dysplasia is most often caused by a sexually transmitted virus. The virus is called the human papillomavirus (HPV).

There are different types of HPV. The risk of cervical disease will differ based on the type of HPV.

Risk Factors

Things that may increase the chance of cervical dysplasia include:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Early onset of sexual activity (before age 18)
  • Having children at an early age (before age 16)
  • Smoking
  • Sexually transmitted diseases including genital herpes or HIV
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a fetus—substance given to prevent miscarriages in high-risk pregnancies



There are often no symptoms with cervical dysplasia. Cervical changes are most often found in screening tests.


Cervical dysplasia is often found as part of regular screening. A pap tests takes a sample of cervix cells. The sample is sent to a lab for testing. After a pap test cervical dysplasia may be diagnosed as:

  • ASCUS (atypical squamos cells of undetermined significance)—Can be caused common issues such as infections, cysts, polyps, or hormonal changes.
  • LSIL (low-grade squamos intra-epithelial lesion)—Changes are mild and often caused by HPV infection.
  • HSIL (high-grade squamos intra-epithelial lesion)—Caused by HPV and can become cervical cancer.
  • ASCH (atypical squamos cells)—May be HSIL. Will need more testing.
  • AGC (atypical glandular cells)—May be cancer or precancer.
  • AIS (adenocarcinoma in situ)—Advanced changes with high risk of becoming cancer.

A colposcopy and biopsy may be done after abnormal Pap test. A small sample of abnormal cells will be removed and tested at a lab. It will help to get more information on cell changes.

Testing for HPV may also be done since it is a common cause of cervical dysplasia.

Note: pap test screening will be done more often after abnormal results.



Treatment will vary based on type, location, and area that is affected. Some dysplasia does not need treatment or will go away on its own. Regular pap tests will be done to track changes.

Cervical dysplasia that increases the risk for cancer will be treated. The goal of treatment is to destroy or remove abnormal cells. Options include:

  • Cone biopsy—a cone-shaped area of tissue is removed. It should remove all abnormal cells.
  • LEEP—a wire loop is used to remove abnormal tissue.
  • Cryosurgery—abnormal tissue is destroyed with cold. Can only be used for smaller areas of dysplasia.
  • Laser Treatment—high-energy beam of light is used to destroy abnormal cells. It tends to cause less damage to nearby healthy tissue than cryosurgery. Laser is not always available.


Lifestyle changes may lower the risk of cervical dysplasia.

  • Use safe sex steps to prevent HPV infection. Condom is one choice.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Get HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is approved for use in females aged 9 to 26 years old.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.