What is Dysplasia? Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

What is Dysplasia? Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Dysplasia Test

What is Dysplasia?

Dysplasia refers to abnormal changes or growth in cells within the body. It is often described as a pre-cancerous condition. Several types of dysplasias can occur in different parts of the body. Understanding dysplasia and getting proper screening and testing is important for early detection and treatment.

Dysplasia comes from the Greek words “dys” meaning bad or difficult and “plasis” meaning formation. It refers to the abnormal formation of cells in the body. Dysplastic cells look irregular under a microscope compared to healthy cells and tend to grow in an uncontrolled way.

Types of Dysplasias

Several types of dysplasias can occur:

  1. Cervical Dysplasia: This type occurs in cervical cells and is also known as cervical intra epithelial neoplasia (CIN). It is typically caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical dysplasia may eventually lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
  2. Colon Dysplasia: Colon dysplasia involves abnormal changes in the cells lining the colon. It is considered a precancerous condition that can progress to colon cancer.
  3. Oral Dysplasia: This refers to dysplasia occurring in the mouth tissues such as the gums, tongue, lips, or lining of the mouth. Oral dysplasia increases oral cancer risk.
  4. Vaginal Dysplasia: This type occurs along the lining of the vagina and involves precancerous changes to vaginal cells. It is associated with HPV infection.
  5. Esophageal Dysplasia: This type happens in the oesophageal lining and is linked to a higher risk of oesophageal cancer. Chronic acid reflux is a common cause.

What Causes Dysplasia?

Different factors can lead to dysplasia depending on the type:

  • HPV infection: cervical, vaginal, anal, and some oral dysplasias
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD): oesophageal dysplasia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: colon dysplasia
  • Tobacco use: oral dysplasia
  • Prior cancer treatment: radiation/chemotherapy
  • Inherited conditions

Signs and Symptoms of Dysplasia

Often there are no clear signs or symptoms associated with dysplasia in the early stages. As it progresses, possible dysplasia symptoms depend on the location in the body:

  • Unusual bleeding or discharge from cervical/vaginal dysplasia
  • Persistent heartburn, difficulty swallowing from oesophageal dysplasia
  • Changes in bowel habit, rectal bleeding from colon dysplasia
  • Persistent mouth sore, white/red patch in oral dysplasia

This underscores the importance of regular screening tests based on individual risk factors to look for abnormal cellular changes.

How to Test for Dysplasia?

Here are some of the main ways dysplasia can be tested and diagnosed:

  • Cervical Dysplasia Testing: Cervical dysplasia is most commonly tested for using a Pap smear, which screens for abnormal precancerous cell changes on the cervix. If results are abnormal, it may be followed up with a colposcopy exam and cervical biopsy to confirm diagnosis and severity.
  • Bronchial Dysplasia Testing: Bronchial dysplasia is typically detected through screening high-risk patients with procedures like autofluorescence bronchoscopy combined with biopsies. Biopsied tissues are then examined histologically.
  • Esophageal Dysplasia Testing: Endoscopy with biopsy is the main method for detecting esophageal dysplasia. Lugol's dye chromoendoscopy may also be used to identify abnormal cell changes prior to biopsy. Biopsied tissues are examined for dysplastic changes.
  • Oral Dysplasia Testing: A thorough oral examination is first done to check for visual signs of dysplasia. Abnormal areas may be evaluated with tests like toluidine blue dye staining or fluorescence imaging. Biopsy of suspicious sites is then done, with histological evaluation of biopsy samples.
  • Bladder Dysplasia Testing: Voided urine cytology and cystoscopy with biopsy are effective in diagnosing bladder dysplasia. Urine samples are analyzed for abnormal cells shed from the bladder lining.during cystoscopy, biopsies are taken from visually abnormal urothelial lesions.
  • Breast Dysplasia Testing: For detecting breast dysplasia, a triple test approach is often used. This includes clinical breast exam, breast imaging (mammogram/ultrasound), and tissue sampling (fine needle aspiration or core biopsy). Biopsy samples are examined microscopically.

Early detection of dysplasia through appropriate screening and testing is key, as treatment is often more effective for milder dysplastic changes before they advance to cancer. Patients at higher risk may need more frequent surveillance.

If dysplasia is suspected based on symptoms or an abnormal screening test, further testing would be conducted, such as:

  • Colposcopy: cervical/vaginal dysplasia
  • Upper endoscopy: oesophageal dysplasia
  • Colonoscopy: colon dysplasia
  • Oral biopsy: oral dysplasia

These invasive tests allow visualization of abnormal tissue and collection of cell samples for microscopic analysis. Blood tests help check for underlying conditions, but cannot definitively diagnose dysplasia.

Dysplasia Treatment Options

If dysplasia is confirmed, common treatments depend on the grade and location, but can include:

  • Surgery: Removal of abnormal tissue growth
  • Topical medicines: For cervical/vaginal dysplasia
  • Photodynamic therapy: Uses light therapy for oesophageal dysplasia
  • Careful monitoring

When detected early, dysplasia can frequently be successfully treated before developing into cancer. That’s why experts recommend undergoing age-appropriate screening tests even if feeling well.

Is dysplasia serious?

Dysplasia is considered precancerous so when detected, it needs medical follow-up and treatment when necessary based on the grade and location. Treating it early leads to very good outcomes.

Can dysplasia go away on its own?

In some cases, mild dysplasia may go away without treatment, but this is not assured. Relying on the body's immunity without follow-up is risky, since dysplastic cells tend to be unstable. Getting regular screening is vital.

Does LEEP get rid of dysplasia?

LEEP stands for loop electrosurgical excision procedure that removes abnormal cells. It's an effective way to treat cervical dysplasia, with over 90% cure rate for lower-grade lesions.

What helps reverse cervical dysplasia?

Having a healthy lifestyle and immune system supports the body’s ability to fight HPV infection underlying most cervical dysplasia. Stopping smoking, eating well, exercising, managing stress, and getting enough sleep help create an internal environment to clear abnormal cells.

How to Prevent Dysplasia?

While some causes of dysplasia cannot be prevented fully, these healthy habits make developing dysplasia less likely:

  • Get HPV and hepatitis vaccination
  • Use protection during sexual activity
  • Have regular screening tests as per medical guidelines
  • Stop tobacco and alcohol use
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain healthy weight

Making positive lifestyle changes minimizes exposure to pathogens and supports the body’s defence mechanisms.

When to See a Doctor?

Consult your doctor or a specialist such as a gynaecologist, gastroenterologist, or oncologist if you have any persistent symptoms or have received abnormal pap smear, colonoscopy, or endoscopy results indicating dysplasia. Based on dysplasia grading and location, they will advise appropriate next steps.

Getting prompt attention ensures precancerous cell changes are caught early and treated effectively. Do not ignore symptoms or screening abnormalities that could signal serious underlying conditions.

As a NAIL-accredited medical laboratory, healthcare nt sickcare provides reliable pathology testing services for early dysplasia detection and treatment monitoring. We offer a home sample collection with customized test packages for your convenience. Our accurate results help identify high-risk cases needing further evaluation. Partner with us for your screening and wellness needs.

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