What I Learned From My Cervical Dysplasia Diagnosis

Dec 6, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
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After a routine Pap, I left my gynecologist’s office with a a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia and a few pamphlets, feeling more confused than ever.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cervical dysplasia is abnormal cells on the cervix. One of the most important things to know is that cervical dysplasia isn’t cancer. However, as it is generally caused by the human papillomavirus, it is possible for it to become cancer if it doesn’t get treated, which is one reason regular Pap smears are so important.

Somewhere between 250,000 and 1 million people get diagnosed with cervical dysplasia each year according to Johns Hopkins University, most between the ages of 25 and 35. There are no obvious symptoms.

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If your gynecologist finds dysplasia, they may perform a test called a colposcopy, which allows them to look at your cervix more closely. A biopsy may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis of dysplasia.

Mild cervical dysplasia often doesn’t require further treatment than more frequent Pap smears to monitor it and make sure it hasn’t gotten worse. It can often go away on its own. Cryosurgery, a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, laser therapy or a cone biopsy are some of the treatments for moderate or severe dysplasia. There is always a possibility for dysplasia to return even after treatment.

Some risk factors include having HPV, having an illness that can suppress your immune system, taking medications that suppress your immune system and smoking. I have an autoimmune disorder, which increased my chances of getting dysplasia in the first place.

This all probably sounds really scary, but there are things you can do to decrease your chance of getting it. Always having protected sex with condoms or dental dams will decrease the chance of getting HPV and the potential for dysplasia. HPV vaccines also help prevent the potential for dysplasia and can be administered up until the age of 26.

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After I was diagnosed, my doctor scheduled appointments every three months to monitor the dysplasia. Thankfully, it seems to be regressing. I don’t feel nearly as freaked out or confused now that I know what I’m dealing with. Education is vital to your health.

By Kelley O'Brien