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Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2008 Apr 26;152(17):977-80.

[A falsely reassuring cervical smear in adenocarcinoma of the external os].

[Article in Dutch]

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Erasmus MC, afd. Verloskunde en Vrouwenziekten, Rotterdam.


3 women with only mild changes in cervical smears were later found to be suffering from cervical adenocarcinoma. The first patient was 53 years old. Her smears repeatedly showed Pap 3 with moderately atypical glandular cells. After 3 colposcopic examinations with biopsies and 2 loop electrosurgical excision procedures of the cervix which showed no histological signs of malignancy, diagnostic conization revealed an adenocarcinoma of the endocervix. She underwent a radical hysterectomy and chemoradiation because of positive pelvic nodes. The second patient was 30 years old and had persistent vaginal discharge and an enlarged cervix, but no cytological abnormalities. Colposcopy was unsatisfactory and the tissue obtained by loop electrosurgical excision was normal. Adenocarcinoma was diagnosed after conization. She was treated with radical hysterectomy and radiotherapy but died after one year. The third patient, aged 26, had a long history of slightly abnormal Pap smears and vulvar condylomata, and was referred with vaginal discharge. A severe abnormal smear with glandular atypia was followed by colposcopical biopsies and conization, which revealed an endocervical adenocarcinoma. She underwent radical hysterectomy. Adenocarcinoma is a rare type of cervical cancer: III cases out of 584 patients with cervical cancer in 2003 in the Netherlands. This neoplasm is more difficult to detect than cervical squamous cell carcinoma. Cervical cytology is not an effective tool for screening and diagnosis. Due to the localization, multifocality and diversity in its presentation, the assessment of cytology has a high false-negative percentage. Screening may be enhanced by combining cytology with testing for high-risk HPV types, notably type 18. If cervical cytology shows persistent atypical glandular cells with no conclusive histological result, then due to the endocervical localisation of the lesions adenocarcinoma can only be excluded by conization.

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