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Affection: organic or functional morbid process (abnormality, dysfunction, lesion, disease).

Antibody: substance produced by the immune system as a reaction to an infection or a vaccine to fight or protect against a microorganism. These substances act as guards against infection

ASCUS: Abnormal Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance - denotes an unclear smear where no result can be given; in 80% of cases, the cervix is normal and in 10% of cases, the cervix has moderate to severe dysplasia.

Biopsy: sample of a tissue fragment.

Cancer: tumour with a tendency to grow, to destroy nearby tissue and to cause other tumours to develop remotely from its place of origin.

Carcinogenesis: mechanisms which describe the birth of a cancer.

Carcinoma: epithelial or glandular cancerous tumour.

Cell: constituent morphological and functional unit of every living being.

Chlamydia: bacteria living exclusively inside cells, responsible for a number of diseases in men and women (pulmonary, urogenital).

Chromosome: structures which transmit hereditary characteristics. Humans have forty-six, in the form of rods, found in the nucleus of cells.

CIN, dysplasia: Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia, also called dysplasia. Benign process of cell change. Low-grade CINs or mild dysplasia are rarely lesions with a cancer risk. High-grade CINs are benign, but do have a cancer risk.

Columnar epithelium: lining of the cervical canal comprising a single layer of cells.

Colposcopy: examination of the cervix with a microscope.

Condyloma: flat lesions (flat condyloma) or raised lesions (condyloma acuminata), which are always benign and caused by the papillomavirus.

Congenital: existing since birth.

Cryotherapy: process which consists of destroying a lesion by extreme cold.

Cytoplasm: cell protoplasm (excluding the nucleus), with a highly-complex structure.

Diethylstilboestrol: hormone which was often used before the 1970s to prevent miscarriage.

DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid, genetic material which is the main constituent of chromosomes and certain viruses.

Dysplasia: presence of abnormal, pre-cancerous cells detected by cervical screening smears.

Ectropion: when the cellular tissue, known as columnar or glandular and normally found inside the cervical canal , grows downwards and outwards and then appears on the visible surface of the cervix. Ectropion is a benign lesion of the cervix. It can be congenital (from birth) or can develop after a number of pregnancies. It can also affect women who have taken the Pill .

Endometrium: mucous membrane lining the uterine cavity, which is shed monthly with the menstrual blood.

Endometriosis: a condition where tissue from the uterine cavity migrates elsewhere in the body and causes painful symptoms.

Epithelium: tissue comprising juxtaposed cells, arranged in a continuous way in one or more layers. Epithelium is the membrane that acts as the lining or wrapping of many organs

Estradiol: oestrogen hormone secreted by the ovarian follicle, the level of which fluctuates during the course of the menstrual cycle.

Fibroma: benign tumour of the uterus composed of fibrous and muscular tissue. Histology: microscopic analysis of a tissue sample to establish a diagnosis.

Hysterectomy: ablation or surgical removal of the uterus. Immunity: process of defence against an infection which brings into play complex mechanisms of antibody production and memory immune cell stimulation. Immunity can be natural or induced by vaccination.

Low-grade lesion: (LSIL) abnormality of the cells of a smear which indicates a benign lesion due to papillomavirus.

High-grade lesion: (HSIL) abnormality of the cells of a smear which indicates a benign lesion, but with a risk of cancer.

High-risk papillomavirus: group of HPV strains present in pre-cancers and cancers of the lower genital organs, in particular the cervix. They are also called oncogenic HPV, i.e. able to cause cancerous transformation of cells. Pre-cancer: benign abnormality which can evolve into cancer if it is not removed or destroyed.

Low-risk papillomavirus: group of HPV strains present in condyloma acuminata and, more rarely, in flat condyloma. These viruses are never found in pre-cancers and cancers of the lower genital organs. They are also called non-oncogenic HPV, i.e. not causing cancerous transformation of cells.

Malpighian epithelium: lining of the vaginal part of the cervix, comprising several layers of cells.

Multiparous: said of a woman whose has had several children.

Mycosis: infection caused by a fungus.

Negative predictive value: the capacity of a test with a negative result to state that there is no significant lesion.

Ovocyte: reproductive female cell.

Papillomavirus (HPV): virus with DNA, responsible for lesions of the skin or mucous membranes (condyloma acuminata).

RNA: ribonucleic acid, evidence of the active form of the HPV virus.

Salpingitis: infection of the Fallopian tubes.

Sero-conversion: change from a state without antibodies to one in which there is a high level of antibodies.

Squamous cells: cells which make up the thicker part of the lining of the cervix, the squamous epithelium

Transformation zone: area of the cervix, often located around its external opening, where abnormal cell changes caused by the papillomavirus are found.

Vaccine: substance prepared from microorganisms, viruses or parasites (killed, inactivated or attenuated by special processes) which, inoculated in an individual, gives immunity against the particular microorganism.

Virus: microscopic particle which feeds on the constituents of the cell which it infects. Some viruses such as papillomavirus are called oncogenic, high-risk or transforming as they disrupt cell division.