I had a Pap test recently, and my health care provider said the results showed cervical dysplasia. What does that mean? Is it cancer?

Answer From Mary Marnach, M.D.


No. Cervical dysplasia isn't cancer. The term means that cells that look different from typical cervical cells were found on the surface of the cervix. Cervical dysplasia can range from mild to severe, depending on how different the cells look. Dysplasia could go away on its own. Or, over time, it could turn into cancer.

After something that is not typical is detected on a Pap test, your health care provider may recommend more tests. Tests might include:

  • Human papillomavirus test. Human papillomavirus, also called HPV, is a common virus that's passed through sexual contact. It causes most cervical cancers. The HPV test can tell whether the virus is present in your cells.
  • Colposcopy. This exam involves looking at your cervix, vagina and vulva using a magnifying instrument. If your health care provider sees anything that's not typical, a sample of cells, called a biopsy, might be taken for testing.

Based on the results, your health care provider might recommend next steps. These could include more tests, more frequent cervical cancer screening or treatment.


Mary Marnach, M.D.

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Jan. 27, 2023 See more Expert Answers