One of the interesting facts about pap smears is that they have been instrumental in reducing cervical cancer rates significantly. The American Cancer Society reveals that since the introduction of widespread pap smear screening back in the 1950s, cervical cancer death rates in the US have declined by over 50%. This highlights the effectiveness of pap smears as a preventive tool when it comes to detecting early signs of cervical abnormalities and enabling timely medical intervention to prevent the progression of cervical cancer.
Persistent infection with specific strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) is primarily responsible for the development of cervical cancer in a patient’s body. HPV, which is a prevalent virus transmitted through sexual activity, can be found in at least 50% of individuals who are sexually active during their lifetime. However, it is important to note that while many people contract HPV, only a small percentage of women will actually have to deal with cervical cancer.
But let’s say you’ve recently received a pap smear that indicates the presence of epithelial cell abnormality. If you’re wondering what it means, you’ve made it to the right place.
Epithelial cell abnormality might indicate the presence of cancer
Epithelial cell abnormalities are usually considered to be more significant than atypical squamous cells (ASC). This indicates a higher likelihood of the presence of precancerous or cancerous conditions. In some cases, this result is referred to as mild dysplasia, underscoring the increased concern for potential health risks.
Epithelial cells are the same type of cells that line in the cervix. Pap smears collect a sample of such cells in order for them to be examined by doctors under a microscope.
However, not all epithelial cell abnormalities are cancerous. Even so, it’s extremely important to consult your doctor in order to prevent the development of cancer.
There are two main types of epithelial cell abnormalities
Epithelial cell abnormalities can be classified into two main categories: squamous cell abnormalities and glandular cell abnormalities.
Squamous cell abnormalities pertain to alterations in the thin, plate-like cells that compose the external layer of the cervix.
As for glandular cell abnormalities, these encompass modifications in the specialized glandular cells that form the lining of the cervical canal. These abnormalities can be categorized as:
- Adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS): Adenocarcinoma in situ refers to a pre-invasive stage of glandular cell cancer, where the abnormal cells are confined to the surface layer of the cervical glandular tissue.
- Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma refers to a type of cancer that originates in the glandular cells of the cervix. It indicates the presence of invasive glandular cell cancer that has the potential to spread beyond the cervix if no treatment is imposed.
- Atypical glandular cells (AGC): This term is used to describe glandular cell changes that are considered abnormal but do not definitively indicate the presence of cancer.
There could be several causes for epithelial cell abnormalities
Usually, HPV is to blame for epithelial cell abnormalities, as the virus is able to induce changes in the cells of the cervix. However, we shouldn’t forget about other risk factors, such as:
- Having a weak immune system: in general, having a weak immune system can make you prone to many diseases and conditions, including epithelial cell abnormalities.
- Smoking: perhaps everyone knows by now that smoking can cause conditions such as cancer, eyesight problems, lung cancer, and more. Unfortunately, epithelial cell abnormalities are also on the list.
- Cervical cancer, as well as gynecological cancers, is on a person’s history of diseases
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are in the history of a person
We all need to keep in mind that regular pap smears have played a vital role in saving countless lives and promoting women’s health.