Precancerous Lesions of the Female Genital Tract

Early awareness and detection of precancerous lesions of the female genital tract is important. While they are not yet cancerous, they have the potential to develop into cancer if left untreated. Stay informed about your body and let Nuvance Health be your guide and support.

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What are precancerous lesions?

Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, which means it can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor will not spread.

The first changes in a cell are considered abnormal, but not cancerous. These precancerous changes are called dysplasia. Early detection and intervention of dysplasia is essential to prevent the progression to cancer.

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What are the risk factors for precancerous lesions?

Several risk factors contribute to the development of precancerous lesions of the genital tract. Some of the most significant include: 

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Particularly types 16 and 18, are strongly linked to cervical, vaginal and vulvar precancerous lesions.
  • Smoking: Increases the risk of several types of precancerous genital lesions.
  • Immunosuppression: Individuals with compromised immune systems are more susceptible.
  • Chronic inflammation: Persistent inflammation can lead to cellular changes.
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Types of precancerous lesions and treatment options available

  • Are there different types of precancerous lesions?

    Yes, there are several types of precancerous lesions that can develop in the female genital tract. Early detection and intervention can prevent potential progression to cancer. Here's a breakdown to help you understand each:

    Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN)

    • CIN I: Mild dysplasia of the cervical cells where abnormal cells affect about 1/3 of the thickness of the cervical lining.
    • CIN II: Moderate dysplasia where abnormal cells affect about 1/3-2/3 of the thickness of the cervical lining.
    • CIN III: Severe dysplasia or “carcinoma in situ of the cervix,” where abnormal cells affect more than two-thirds of the cervical lining.

    Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VAIN)

    • VAIN I: Mild dysplasia of the vaginal cells.
    • VAIN II: Moderate dysplasia.
    • VAIN III: Severe dysplasia or “carcinoma in situ of the vagina.”

    Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VIN)

    • VIN I: Mild dysplasia of the vulvar cells.
    • VIN II: Moderate dysplasia.
    • VIN III: Severe dysplasia or “carcinoma in situ of the vulva.”

    Endometrial Intraepithelial Neoplasia (EIN) or Endometrial Hyperplasia:

    • Endometrial hyperplasia is an overgrowth of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). It can be categorized as simple or complex and can be with or without atypia. 
    • The presence of atypia is concerning for potential progression to cancer and is considered a precancerous endometrial lesion. This is called Endometrial Hyperplasia with Atypia or Endometrial Intraepithelial Neoplasia (EIN). 
    • With EIN, the lining of the uterus grows too thick and shows changes that look like cancer. When EIN is initially diagnosed, many times there is also underlying endometrial cancer. A hysterectomy is usually recommended for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Treatment options for precancerous lesions of the genital tract

    The treatment of precancerous lesions depends on the following factors:

    • Type, size, location and severity of the lesion
    • Age and general health of the patient
    • Treatment preference of patient and provider

    Some treatment options include:

    • Observation: Monitoring abnormal cells in cases of mild dysplasia, which might resolve on their own.
    • Topical treatment: Applying creams or ointments that may contain chemotherapy, hormones or substances to stimulate the immune system to the lesion.
    • Cryotherapy: Freezing of the lesion to destroy abnormal tissue.
    • Laser treatment: Using a focused beam of light to burn abnormal tissue.
    • Surgical excision: Cutting the abnormal tissue out of the body for diagnosis and treatment.
    • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): A procedure to remove abnormal cervical tissue using a thin heated wire.
    • Cold knife conization (CKC): A procedure to remove abnormal cervical tissue using a scalpel or laser.
    • Hysterectomy: Surgical removal of the uterus; sometimes recommended with a precancer diagnosis of the cervix or precancer diagnosis of the uterus. 

Why choose us?

Your guide to navigating precancerous lesions.

At Nuvance Health®, we understand the importance of early detection for precancerous lesions of the genital tract. With our dedicated team and holistic approach, we stand by your side, making sure you're informed, supported and cared for at every step. Your well-being is our priority. Ready to take the next step with us?
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