Quality CareFind out why Mayo Clinic is the right place for your health care. Make an appointment.
Meet the StaffFind a directory of doctors and departments at all Mayo Clinic campuses. Visit now.
Research and Clinical TrialsSee how Mayo Clinic research and clinical trials advance the science of medicine and improve patient care. Explore now.
Visit Our SchoolsEducators at Mayo Clinic train tomorrow’s leaders to deliver compassionate, high-value, safe patient care. Choose a degree.
Professional ServicesExplore Mayo Clinic’s many resources and see jobs available for medical professionals. Get updates.
Give to Mayo ClinicHelp set a new world standard in care for people everywhere. Give now.
Mayo Clinic offers appointments in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota and at Mayo Clinic Health System locations.
Subscribe to Housecall
Our general interest e-newsletter keeps you up to date on a wide variety of health topics.
On occasion you may see a report from a Pap test or tissue biopsy stating "atypical cells present." This might cause you to worry that this means cancer, but atypical cells aren't necessarily cancerous.
The presence of atypical cells is sometimes referred to as "dysplasia." Many factors can make normal cells appear atypical, including inflammation and infection. Even normal aging can make cells appear abnormal.
Atypical cells can change back to normal cells if the underlying cause is removed or resolved. This can happen spontaneously. Or it can be the result of a specific treatment.
Atypical cells don't necessarily mean you have cancer. However, it's still important to make sure there's no cancer present or that a cancer isn't just starting to develop.
If your doctor identifies atypical cells, close follow-up is essential. In some cases, your doctor may simply monitor the atypical cells to make sure they don't become more abnormal. Other tests or scans may be useful, depending on your specific circumstances.
In other cases, your doctor may recommend a particular treatment to try to reverse the process that's causing the atypical cells. And sometimes, your doctor may need to obtain a sample of tissue — such as a biopsy — to make sure you don't have cancer or another serious condition.
Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.
Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.
Check out these best-sellers and special offers on books and newsletters from Mayo Clinic.
A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.org," "Mayo Clinic Healthy Living," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.