To help us continue to improve our service, this web site uses cookies. They cannot be used to identify you. Using this site implies an agreement to continue accepting them. For more details please see managing the cookies we use.  

Patients & Visitors




A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  I  |  M  |  P  |  S  |  T


Abnormal smear - a smear result showing an abnormality such as Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia (CIN), infection of the cervix or inflammatory changes.

back to top


Biopsy - the removal of a small piece of the cervix for microscopic examination. A punch biopsy removes a tiny piece of the cervix and is done without anaesthesia during the colposcopic examination. A cone biopsy is an operation to remove the part of the cervix with the abnormal area of surface tissue (roughly a cone shape 1½cm deep). It is done under general anaesthesia.

back to top


Carcinoma in situ - cancer cells which are localised, confined to the surface tissue and not invasive. Included in CIN III.

Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia (CIN) - new abnormal on the surface of the cervix.
3 stages - CIN I (mild) CIN II (moderate) and CIN III (severe).

CIN - abbreviation for Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia.

Colposcopy - examination with a binocular microscope which magnifies the cervix and makes it easy to see where abnormal cells are. The NHS Direct website has further information:

Columnar cells - column shaped cells which produce mucus. These cells mainly line the canal leading from the vagina into the womb.

Cone biopsy - see biopsy.

back to top


Dyskaryosis - abnormalities seen in the cells taken in the cervical smear. Included in the term CIN.

Dysplasia - abnormal cells in surface layer of cervix. Included in the term CIN but gives information about the cell abnormalities that can only be seen in the biopsy.

back to top


Inflammatory changes - cell damage changes caused by bacteria, viruses, IUCD strings etc but which are not CIN.

Invasive cancer - cancerous cells growing beyond the surface layer into other tissues.

back to top


Mild dysplasia (CIN I) - abnormal cells are only in bottom third or less of surface layer.

Moderate dysplasia (CIN II) - abnormal cells in bottom third to two-thirds of surface layer.

Metaplasia - during adolescence, pregnancy and when on the contraceptive pill, columnar cells on the surface of the cervix are replaced by squamous cells. This process, which takes place in the transformation zone, is normal cell growth.

back to top


Positive smear - a term without a universally agreed definition but usually means the same as CIN.

back to top


Severe dysplasia (CIN III) - abnormal cells covering at least two-thirds but not entire surface layer.

Squamous cells - cells which cover the surface of the cervix. They are formed into a tough many-layered sheet, rather like skin.

back to top


Transformation zone - are of metaplasia in which the original squamous cells are replaced by columnar cells.

back to top