Low grade squamous intraepithelial lesions and cervical cancer risk

Patient

Q: I am curious about a recent diagnosis i received from my family doctor and was wondering if you could help? Since the age of 18, i am now 24, i have had two abnormal paps that found Low grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, the first corrected itself and this time i have been referred to a gyno. i am just wondering what this means, what causes it and because i have had two paps that found this how much greater are my chances at developing cervical cancer??

Doctor

A:   This is a common question and concern amongst women.  I will attempt to summarize some salient points.
Cervical cancer is a common cancer amongst women of all ages.  However, if  detected early, it has a high cure rate.
The majority of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  HPV is a sexually transmitted virus and is acquired through sexual activity, genital contact and sharing of sex toys.
The purpose of the annual pap test is to take a sample of cervical cells, examine them under the microscope and look for evidence of cellular changes caused by the HPV virus that may lead to cancer.  When someone is told they have an "abnormal pap", they are being told that they have changes in the normal cervical cells that suggest an HPV infection has occurred and there is a risk of cancer development.
The good news is that in the majority of cases, the body is able to fight off the virus and return the cells to normal.  The only way to know if your body or the HPV virus is winning the battle is to repeat the pap test 3-6 months later as advised by your doctor.  Fortunately, cervical cancer is a slow growing cancer so waiting 3-6 months will not have any negative consequences.  If your body is not able to fight it off within that time period, a referral to a gynecologist is often made for treatment.
If you do have an HPV infection and your body fights it off, you can still get another one in the future.  Risk factors include having multiple sexual partners, sharing sex toys and smoking.  The management for subsequent HPV infections would usually be the same as initial HPV infections.
I hope this helps

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