Cytologic evaluation of cells obtained from the cervix and vagina was first proposed by Papanicolaou and Traut in the 1940s as a method of detecting cervical cancer and its percursor lesions. Since that time, cervical cytology has proved to be the most efficacious and cost-effective method of cancer screening. By increasing detection of preinvasive and early invasive disease, use of Papanicolaou's (Pap) test has decreased both the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in areas with well-established screening programs (1). The American Cancer Society has estimated that in the United States, cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 14,900 women and 4500 women will die as a result of this disease during the year 2000. More than 50 million Pap tests are performed annually in the United States, and about 15% of them will be abnormal (2). Consequently, it is incumbent on the practicing primary care physician to be familiar with the clinical significance and natural history of abnormal cervical cytologic diagnoses as well as the available treatment options. This discussion will delineate practical management protocols for the full range of cervical dysplasia commonly encountered in clinical practice.
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