Categories: Health & Fitness

What are squamous cells in a smear?

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Squamous cells or squamous cells line the cervix. When these cells are not normal, it is called atypia. Their abnormalities are visible on the cervico-vaginal smear and may suggest cancer of the cervix.

Squamous cellslocated in the uterus, are visible by smears and may suggest cervical cancer. The smear makes it possible to identify pre-cancerous lesions in more than 31,000 women each year. While 3,300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually in France, 90% of these cancers could be avoided by regular Pap smear screening. However, the smear remains neglected by 40% of women. What are squamous cells? What are the possible atypicals? The causes ? What to do in case of squamous cell abnormalities?

Definition: what are squamous cells?

Squamous cells are called “squamous” because they look like fish scales. They are found in the skin, the wall of the vagina and the cervix of the uterus.

Diagram of a cervix with abnormalities © 123RF-annyart

What are the types of squamous cell atypia?

► There are several kinds of squamous cell atypia, starting with the ACS of indeterminate significance (1 to 2% of smears), which can be a low-grade lesion but without certainty. In this case, the healthcare professional who took the smear (general practitioner, midwife or gynecologist) can request a new smear for verification 6 months later. He can also carry out a microscopic examination of the cervix (colposcopy), or ask the laboratory to look for the presence of papillomavirus on the squamous cells.

THE SC of high rank, which represents less than 0.5% of smears systematically requires colposcopy for verification.

CSA LSIL (for low-grade intraepithelial lesion, in English) represents 1 to 2% of smears and evokes the possibility of papillomavirus infection or mild dysplasia. Colposcopy, and new smear are then prescribed.

AGC corresponds to an abnormality of the glandular cells. This is evidence of a smear showing moderate or severe abnormalities, and only concerns less than 0.1% of cases. These lesions are less frequent and more difficult to detect. In any case, these abnormalities should not be considered as a diagnosis but only as an indication requiring additional examinations.

What causes squamous cell abnormalities?

The main cause of squamous cell abnormalities is Papillomavirus infection (or HPV for Human PapillomaVirus), which is a sexually transmitted viral infection. The virus will infect the cervix and cause lesions that can progress to cancer. This evolution is slow since cancer generally appears 10 to 15 years after infection. persistent by the virus. Hence the importance of carrying out a smear every 2 years from the age of 25 and up to the age of 65. Cervical cancer is one of the most common among women, especially those with multiple partners. The virus can also heal spontaneously.

What to do in case of squamous cell abnormalities?

When abnormalities are discovered on the cervical-vaginal smear, depending on the stage, it is recommended to carry out a new control and/or a colposcopy. Pre-cancerous lesions can be detected and quickly treated, allowing increase the cure rate for cervical cancer. Vaccination against Papillomavirus in young girls must also be developed because it is the best prevention against cancer of the cervix. Raising awareness among young girls of sexual age is essential (vaccination, condoms, etc.).

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