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Cervical dysplasia screening

Cervical dysplasia is not cancer. It is the medical term for abnormal cells on the cervix, usually caused by the HPV virus. If the abnormalities are mild and few in number, they usually go away without treatment. However, some cases of moderate dysplasia, and most cases of severe dysplasia, will not go away on their own. At this stage, the cells are considered "pre-cancer": In other words, if they are not found and treated, they could develop into cervical cancer.

Who is at risk

  • Becoming sexually active before age 18
  • Having a high number of sexual partners
  • Having illnesses or using medicines that lower your immune system
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Not using condoms (while condoms help prevent HPV, they do not fully protect you)
  • Giving birth before age 16


Dysplasia does not have warning symptoms.

What you can do

  • Get the HPV vaccine if you are between the ages of 9 and 26.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Don’t have sex until you are 18 or older.
  • Always use a condom when having sex.
  • Only have one sexual partner at a time (monogamy).

Preventive service at no cost

Women aged 21 to 65 years

The USPSTF recommends screening for cervical cancer every 3 years with cervical cytology alone in women aged 21 to 29 years. For women aged 30 to 65 years, the USPSTF recommends screening every 3 years with cervical cytology alone, every 5 years with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone, or every 5 years with hrHPV testing in combination with cytology (cotesting).

Why screening is important

If symptoms such as vaginal bleeding or low back pain occur, the condition may already have progressed to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer may be prevented with regular screening and early detection.

What the screening is

Cervical dysplasia is detected by a pap test (pap smear).

Pap Test


Treatment may varies depending on the extent of abnormal cells. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

  • Monitoring
  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Removal of the abnormal cells

Next Steps After an Abnormal Screening Test

Additional tips

Once treated, cervical dysplasia can return. The likelihood of recurrence depends on the extent of abnormal cells, the treatment used, and the woman’s age.