Abnormal cells on the cervix (dysplasia)
Screening tests for cervical cancer can detect abnormal cells on the cervix. These cells are often not dangerous and usually go back to normal again without treatment. But they might continue to change and eventually turn into cervical cancer.
In Germany, dysplasia is classified into three grades, depending on the outcome of the tissue sample examination (biopsy):
- low-grade dysplasia (medical term: CIN 1)
- moderate dysplasia (CIN 2)
- high-grade dysplasia (CIN 3)
In all of the different grades of dysplasia, the abnormal cells are only found in the uppermost layer of cells. In high-grade dysplasia, the cells have already changed a lot. If cancer cells have developed but haven't yet spread, it is called a “carcinoma in situ” ("in situ" is Latin and means “in its original place”). Cervical cancer is said to be "invasive" if the cancer cells have spread from the uppermost mucous membrane layer to the tissue beneath it.