MY LIFE WITH HPV AND CANCER
A year ago at my first Pap smear, I got the wonderful news that I have HPV. When the doctor's office called me the nurse basically said "Hi so everything is fine, there were some abnormal cells and you have HPV, you can schedule your annual in a few months, bye!" After that conversation I cried for a few hours, had an anxiety attack and had the worst guilt ever because I felt guilty for giving my partner HPV, or maybe he gave it to me, who knew but being that I'm the female with a vagina and gets Pap smears I'm the only one who will know. Since the diagnosis I have come to terms with my HPV, how common it is for all sexually active people my age and have used my experiences to help friends and to educate and advocate for safe sex. At my last Pap smear, a few weeks ago, I got a call from the office again, not seeming very serious but telling me that I could have minor cervical dysplasia. I am scheduled for a colposcopy in 2 weeks and I'm freaking out. I got the Gardasil shots when I was 12 ( the whole series) so I'm under the impression that I don't have cancer but I'm still terrified!!!! All I can think about is that I'll never be able to have babies one day when I want them or that I'll have cancer and just die. Is there any information you can provide about how common this is, what I can expect and how it could affect me long term???
IHPV, human papillomavirus, is the underlying virus that, in women, can cause genital warts, abnormal Pap smears, cervical dysplasia, and cervical cancer. It is now estimated that up to 90% or more people carry HPV. Via sex, the penile microbiome can alter the vaginal microbiome and make it more likely for HPV to proliferate and cause an abnormal Pap smear. Condoms can prevent HPV transmission by 50-85% in various studies, but are not 100% effective due to skin to skin contact. Unfortunately, receiving a vaccine against HPV is no guarantee of protection, and it is very important for women to continue Pap smears and HPV testing. In fact, in women who are already sexually active and who may have already been exposed to HPV, the vaccine may influence the native HPV to progress more rapidly towards cancer. Education is empowering, and I educate my patients extensively about HPV and cervical dysplasia from a holistic perspective, including effective treatment protocols involving nutrition, lifestyle modification, and targeted botanical supplements and suppositories. Emotions can become intense as the new diagnosis influences the mind body connection. Reconnecting with your vagina in a conscious and reassuring way, empowered with the information that the stats are most likely on your side, may in fact help, as new research reveals ways in which our thoughts can actually influence our microbiomes! Quitting smoking, drinking green tea, and using condoms, even in a monogamous relationship, can help HPV become undetectable faster. Even if HPV becomes undetectable, it can reactivate years later, making it is very important to get yearly or more frequent Pap smears and HPV testing following an abnormal result. Most importantly, remember: You are not alone, and your immune system is one of your most powerful tools that can help normalize your Pap smear and heal from HPV. Be sure to get all the information and support that you need to feel empowered in both mind and body to give your immune system the chance to do its best possible job.
All the best,
Dr. Eden Fromberg
Dr. Fromberg (@dredenfromberg) is a Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist who is also Board Certified in Integrative Holistic Medicine, and is the Founder and Director of Holistic Gynecology New York, a pioneering sanctuary for truly holistic women's health throughout the life cycle.
CYCLES+SEX is not providing medical advice! Check in with your practitioner and use the above as a conversation starter to figure out what is best for you and your unique health history and situation.
Have a question you want answered? Email us!