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The Bethesda System (TBS)

Topic Overview

The Bethesda system (TBS) of classifying Pap tests was developed by the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) to provide more detailed information about Pap test results. When lab specialists examine cervical cells, they use this system to report the lab results to doctors.

Your doctor receives the report from the lab. The report tells your doctor if the cell sample taken during the exam was good enough to be evaluated. It also lets your doctor know if the cells were normal or abnormal or if there was an infection present.

If the cells were abnormal, they are put in categories, or typed, based on how severe the problem is:

  • Cells that show minor changes but the cause is unknown may be typed as ASC-US (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance) or ASC-H (atypical squamous cells that cannot exclude high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion).
  • Cells that show definite minor changes but aren't likely to become cancer may be typed as LSIL (low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions).
  • Cell changes that are more severe and are more likely to become cancer may be typed as HSIL (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions) or AGC (atypical glandular cells).

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of March 12, 2014

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