Women's Health Matters

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Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia refers to the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix. Cervical dysplasia is not cervical cancer, but if it is left untreated, cervical cancer can develop. Cervical dysplasia is usually discovered when your doctor does a routine vaginal examination and Pap smear.

Most cervical dysplasias are caused by specific strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is passed from one person to another by genital skin contact. Intercourse is not required for transmission. HPV can be transmitted by sexual contact with women or men.

Other factors have also been identified that may make cervical dysplasia more likely. They include:

  • infection with the herpes virus
  • smoking
  • use of drugs that suppress the immune system
  • immune-suppressing medical conditions
  • a family history of dysplasia

You may also be at higher risk for cervical dysplasia if your mother took a drug called DES to prevent a miscarriage while she was pregnant with you. DES is short for diethylstilbestrol. It was prescribed to Canadian women from 1941 until 1971.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital