Definition - What does Cervical Dysplasia mean?
Cervical dysplasia is the presence of abnormal cells on the cervix. The condition ranges from mild to severe, and without treatment may lead to cancer. However, the majority of cases are treatable. As of 2016, no research has been conducted to determine the impact of cervical dysplasia on fertility. However, treatment for cervical dysplasia may involve procedures that could limit fertility potential and future cervical performance.
FertilitySmarts explains Cervical Dysplasia
The cervix is the organ that acts as a barrier between the vagina and uterus. The cervix produces cervical mucus, which aids conception and vaginal health. Cervical dysplasia causes no symptoms, and is typically diagnosed during a Pap smear exam (Pap test). It can affect a woman of any age. Cervical dysplasia is often caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus. Certain factors may increase a woman’s risk of cervical dysplasia:
- Sex before age 16
- Pregnancy before age 16
- Multiple sexual partners
- Immunosuppressant medications
When someone is diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, the cell changes are medically referred to as a squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL). The degree of SIL determines the severity of the condition and dictates the course of treatment. There are four groups of SIL:
- Low grade (LSIL)
- High grade (HSIL)
- Possible cancer
- Atypical glandular cells (AGUS)
SIL may not require treatment. The condition may be monitored to determine if it will go away on its own. However, more advanced conditions may require a biopsy. A biopsy is a minor surgical procedure that removes a tissue sample for further testing. The biopsy should indicate the level of treatment required.
Treatment is based on the aggressiveness of the condition. Available options include:
- Cryosurgery, which removes abnormal cells through freezing
- Laser therapy
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), removes abnormal cells with electric waves
- Cone biopsy, the surgical removal of cervical tissue containing the abnormal cells.
- Hysterectomy, in rare cases, to remove the sexual organs.
Each of these treatments contains it's own level of risk concerning future fertility potential. Cryosurgery has not been proven to damage future fertility. However, laser therapy, LEEP and cone biopsy procedures may damage the cervical integrity, or impair the cervix's ability to produce mucus. Cervical mucus, also known as vaginal fluid, is an essential component of fertility. Disrupting the production of cervical mucus may impede fertility.
A hysterectomy is a massive surgery that involves removal of a woman's sex organs. In some circumstances, a woman may be able to retrieve eggs prior to the surgery, that may be used in surrogate pregnancies. However, following the procedure she would never be able to carry a pregnancy.
The HPV vaccine is the most effective way to avoid cervical dysplasia. Additionally, regular Pap smears help to diagnose the condition early, preventing the condition from transitioning to cancer.