What are cervical atypical cells?

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Answered by: Kimberly, An Expert in the About Cervical Dysplasia Category
Atypical cells are cells that appear abnormal and can be found anywhere in the body. Atypical cells that occur in the cervix of a woman are called atypical squamous cells and are more commonly referred to as dysplasia. Atypical cells of the cervix are found during a routine pap smear.

There are many causes for dysplasia such as infection, inflammation of the cervix, and high risk strands of HPV. It is important to understand that not all lesions are cancerous. Some atypical cells simply go away on their own once the underlying cause of the infection has been treated.

A person who is diagnosed with atypical cells of the cervix will have to have a repeat pap smear in three to six months to see if the cells have returned to normal or have become worse. If the cells remain after the second Pap smear, then further testing will be needed to determine whether or not the cells are cancerous. A colposcopy is the next step in determining if the cells are precancerous or cancerous.

A colposcopy is a test where the gynecologist examines the cervix with an electric microscope to determine where light can’t easily pass through the cervix. Abnormal areas of the cervix are white and it is in that area where a sample will be taken for biopsy. If the biopsy reveals precancerous or cancerous cells, then the patient will have to undergo a procedure to remove the abnormal cells. There are five different types of procedures that can be formed to remove the growth of cells.

First, there is cryotherapy, which involves the freezing of the cervix at sub temperatures by placing a probe to the cervix. The probe then lowers the temperature of the cervix and the damaged cells are shed during the following month. This procedure is fairly inexpensive but has a high failure rate because it doesn’t reach the cells of the cervical canal.

Second, is laser treatment. In this process, the laser is directed through the colposcope and the laser light vaporizes the infected cells. Laser treatment is very effective and allows for shorter recovery time. The biggest down-side to this treatment is that the equipment is very expensive and is mostly performed in hospitals because doctor offices can’t afford to purchase the equipment.

The third procedure is loop excision or more commonly known as the LEEP procedure. This removal process involves an electrically charged loop wire to be placed against the affected area of the cervix to remove the abnormal cells. This procedures not only treats the problem but can be used to diagnose the cells as well.

A cone biopsy is the fourth treatment used to remove atypical cells. This process is done in the hospital in an operating room. A cone shaped section of the affected cervix is removed thus removing the affected cells. This procedure can be used as diagnosing and treating the dysplasia. The down side to this procedure is that it can affect a woman’s ability to bear children.

Finally, the most invasive procedure is a hysterectomy. A woman who is no longer of childbearing age may opt for a hysterectomy because it can eliminate all growth by removing a woman’s cervix and all her reproductive organs.

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