What Are Atypical Cells?

Atypical cells are cells that appear abnormal when viewed under a microscope, although they are not necessarily cancerous, according to Mayo Clinic. A number of factors may result in cell abnormality.

While it is impossible to determine the cause of atypical cells, inflammation, infection and even aging can result in the appearance of cell abnormality, says Mayo Clinic. Pathologists look at a number of factors to determine whether cells show abnormality, such as the size and color of the nucleus, the appearance of structures within the cytoplasm, and the size of the cell, according to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. However, current methods used to determine whether cells show abnormality are highly subjective, as there is wide variation in the appearance of normal cells, and a pathologist’s experience and a second opinion are highly recommended.

While the presence of cell abnormality does not necessarily mean that the cells are cancerous, follow-up is critical. Atypical cells can become normal on their own if the underlying cause is resolved or as a result of treatment, notes Mayo Clinic. Treatments for cell abnormality, such as abnormalities found in the cervix or colon, involve methods that either destroy or remove abnormal cells, according to NHS Choices.