Cervical cancer
posted by Irish Cancer Society
10 April 2008

I have abnormal cells in my cervix - does this mean cancer?

Abnormal cells on the cervix can be detected during a smear test.
Many women feel anxious when they are told after a smear test that they have abnormal cells on their cervix. They often assume that this means cancer. Abnormal cells means a condition known as CIN. CIN is not a cancer but may develop into cancer in some women and so is often described as 'pre-cancerous' changes. The initials CIN stand for cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia. there are three types: CIN 1, CIN 2 and CIN 3.
The abnormalities in CIN 1 are quite minor and will often disappear of their own accord without requiring any treatment . The risk of CIN 1 becoming cancerous is considered to be very small. Doctors therefore advise that the smear test be repeated in six months. If changes in the cervix continue, then further treatment may be suggested.
In CIN 2 and 3, the abnormal cells cover more of the cervix and are more likely to develop into cancer if treatment is not given. The treatment for CIN 2 and 3 is usually very simple and can often be done as an out-patient. Treatments include a procedure called LETTZ, which stands for large loop excision of the transformational zone, Other treatments also available are laser therapy, cryotherapy (freezing the cells) or cold coagulation (removing the cells using heat).
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