What a Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia Diagnosis Means

Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), or cervical neoplasia, is a particular type of change in the cervix that may or may not be a precursor to cervical cancer. In fact, a cervical neoplasia diagnosis can apply to a wide range of changes to the cervix. These changes can range from self-resolving mild to moderate cervical dysplasia to the early stages of cervical cancer.

Doctor holding cervical smear equipment
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Defining Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia

Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia is abnormal cell growth within the layers of epithelial cells that cover the cervix.

  • This is a condition that can affect the uterine cervix.
  • The epithelium is a type of tissue that lines the organs of the body. Intraepithelial means "within the epithelium." The muscular structure of the cervix is covered with layers of several types of epithelial cells. It is these cells that are affected by cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
  • Neoplasia refers to abnormal or uncontrolled cell growth.

The cervical neoplasia diagnosis is reserved for diagnosis by biopsy or colposcopy.

When diagnosed by Pap smear, cervical dysplasias are generally known as squamous intracellular lesions (SIL) instead of cervical interepithelial neoplasias. This is because Pap smears provide the examiner with loose cells.

In contrast, biopsies give healthcare providers the ability to perform a more accurate diagnosis.


Cervical neoplasias are diagnosed by biopsy and graded according to their severity as follows:

Grade  Definition
CIN I Mild dysplasia
CIN II Mild to moderate dysplasia
CIN III Severe dysplasia to cancer


People who are diagnosed with CIN I are generally not treated, as this type of cervical damage often heals without intervention. Instead, they are followed up closely by their healthcare provider. That may include more frequent Pap smears, HPV testing, or possibly colposcopy.

CIN I correlates with a low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL) diagnosis from a Pap smear.


CIN II and CIN III correspond to high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL), high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (ASC-H), atypical glandular cells (AGC), or carcinoma in situ Pap smear diagnoses. 

In contrast to CIN I patients, those with either of these two grades are almost always referred for treatment.

Treatment for moderate to severe cervical neoplasias involves the removal of the lesions, which can be done through:

Even after treatment to remove the lesion, individuals with high-grade cervical neoplasias remain at increased risk of developing cervical cancer in the future. They are generally advised to continue visiting their healthcare providers for more frequent follow-ups.

Does Cervical Neoplasia Mean Cancer?

Being diagnosed with cervical neoplasia does not mean you have cancer. It doesn't mean that you are going to get cancer. What it does mean is that if left untreated or if not followed properly, the risk of cervical cancer goes up. That is particularly true if you are diagnosed with CIN II or CIN III.

Your absolute cancer risk is still low after a CIN II or III diagnosis. However, your healthcare provider will probably recommend regular follow-up. That will help make sure they can catch cancer early if it does develop. Early diagnosis and treatment is a critical step in limiting mortality from cervical cancer.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Cancer Institute. Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia.

  2. Mello V, Sundstrom RK. Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

  3. American Cancer Society. Tests for Cervical Cancer.

  4. Wright JD. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: Management.

  5. Waxman AG, Chelmow D, Darragh TM, et al. Revised terminology for cervical histopathology and its implications for management of high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions of the cervixObstet Gynecol. 2012;120(6):1465-1471. doi:10.1097/aog.0b013e31827001d5

  6. Melnikow J, McGahan C, Sawaya GF, et al. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia outcomes after treatment: long-term follow-up from the British Columbia Cohort StudyJ Natl Cancer Inst. 2009;101(10):721-728. doi:10.1093/jnci/djp089

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.