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What Is Dysplasia? - Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to learn about a potentially reversible, but also a potentially dangerous, tissue change known as dysplasia. We'll discuss cervical dysplasia as the prime example.

What Is Dysplasia?

Kids make messes because they're kind of immature. Any parent knows that. As we mature and become adults, we tend to learn that messiness and disorganization are not a really good thing. And what do you know? Your body's cells are kind of the same.

Let me explain. There is a type of cellular transformation known as dysplasia. Dysplasia refers to an abnormal and potentially reversible process where there is disordered growth and maturation of cells and the tissues and organs which they make up.

What this means is that, as a result of dysplasia within a tissue, the number of adult and mature cells decreases while the number of immature cells increases. Since immature means messy and disorganized and we now have more of the immature kiddos, dysplasia results in the disordered and messy growth of tissue. This is bad because dysplasia can, in some cases, lead to the development of cancer.

We're going to look at one famous example of dysplasia, as well as the signs, symptoms, and treatments associated with it.

Cervical Dysplasia

Probably the most well-known type of dysplasia is cervical dysplasia. This is dysplasia of the cervix, which is the lower portion of the uterus (womb) lying right next to the vagina (birth canal).

A Woman

Without treatment, cervical dysplasia may turn into a serious cancer: cervical cancer.

Symptoms, Signs, & Treatment

One of the problems with diagnosing cervical dysplasia is that it usually either carries no symptoms, or manifests in subjective experiences only the patient can appreciate, such as pain. This means we need to look for testable signs of dysplasia under the microscope by collecting cells from the cervix in a procedure known as the Pap test, or Pap smear. If there are abnormal results from a Pap smear, a biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is taken out for examination under the microscope, may be performed as a confirmatory test to look for the signs and severity of the dysplasia.

If cervical dysplasia is found, then the type of treatment a woman may need to undergo depends on the severity of the dysplasia.

In cases of mild dysplasia, it may actually go away on its own without any intervention. However, the patient should always follow up with their health care provider for repeat Pap tests to look for any changes.

In cases of moderate, marked, or severe dysplasia, or mild dysplasia that doesn't go away on its own, treatment options include:

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