The outside of the cervix and the vagina are covered by a layer of flat cells called squamous or skin-like cells. There are many of these cell layers before the first flattened layer of cells with a nuclei or center. Normally at the bottom of the cell layers are the round, younger cells. As the cells mature, they rise to the surface and become flat. The skin-like covering is separated from the underlying structures by a basement membrane. This is an extremely important concept to remember as well as the Transition Zone area discussed on the Pap Smear Page.
In mild dysplasia (CIN phase I) only a few cells are abnormal. Mild cervical dysplasia sometimes goes away without treatment. However many doctors will treat it at this early stage to prevent it from progressing
In moderate dysplasia (CIN phase II) the abnormal cells involve about one-half of the thickness of the surface lining of the cervix.
In severe dysplasia (CIN phase III), also called carcinoma-in-situ, the entire thickness of cells is abnormal, but the abnormal cells have not yet spread below the surface or basement membrane. Carcinoma-in-situ literally means "CANCER in place". This severity of dysplasia MUST BE TREATED because it will most often develop into invasive cancer. (This is the stage she is at)
With invasive cancer, the cells are not only abnormal throughout the entire thickness from the top to the basement membrane, but they invade the basement membrane. Invasive cancer is treated entirely differently than dysplasia and usually involves extensive surgery. The depth of invasion past the basement membrane is an important piece of information that will help make the decision on the proper treatment needed. Micro - invasive cancer, invasion less than 3 mm, may be treated differently and more conservatively than invasive cancer that goes deeper.
The following may increase an individual's risk for developing cervical dysplasia:
· Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
· Having a partner whose former partner had cervical cancer
· Having suppressed immune function
· **Being born to a mother who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to become pregnant or to sustain pregnancy (this drug was used many years ago to promote pregnancy and prevent miscarriages but it is no longer used for these purposes)
· Low levels of folate (vitamin B9) in red blood cells
· Dietary deficiencies in vitamin A, beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin C (scientific data is not entirely conclusive at this time; see section on Nutrition and Dietary Supplements)
(Sorry I can't give the author credit as this was paste and cut to help me understand, but when I get the author, I'll print it here)