The reality is that learning that you have been diagnosed with HPV can be both frightening and confusing. There is a lot of information on the web that discusses the risk of HPV turning into cervical cancer. This is a legitimate fear because cervical cancer is ranked 3rd in deaths caused by cancer in American woman. What you do not usually hear about is that 75% of the population has been exposed, but do not know, because the virus usually goes away on it’s own. The other day I spent some time in an online support group for people who have been diagnosed with HPV. It hurt my heart to see how many young women were worried about not being able to have children in the future and were literally depressed over this diagnosis. I feel that there are several natural remedies that usually aren’t discussed that can improve your body’s ability to heal, thus giving more people hope about their prognosis.
What is HPV exactly?
It’s a viral infection. HPV also known as human papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted disease that is spread by skin-to-skin contact, much like the herpes virus. Males and females can both be infected however men are usually asymptomatic. There are over 30 different strands of the HPV virus, which can cause cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia, genital warts, and/or condyloma. When diagnosed with HPV it will categorize it as being low risk or high risk. The high-risk strands are more aggressive and can potentially change the cells into cancerous tissue. However, this is not always the case.
Most people understand and recognize what it means to have cervical cancer but they do not know as much about cervical dysplasia. Cervical dysplasia is when abnormal changes occur to the cells on the surface of the cervix. We care about this because HPV is one of the common causes of cervical dysplasia. If this is left untreated it can potentially turn in cervical cancer. However, just because you have HPV does not mean you have cervical dysplasia. This is one of main reasons why early detection is so important.
How do I know if I have it?
A Pap smear is a screening tool used to detect HPV. Your doctor will specifically test you for HPV depending on your age and sexual history. The American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical pathology has recently changed the guidelines for how often you should receive a Pap and at what age it is necessary to screen for HPV, which basically amounts to no more annual screening unless you have been previously diagnosed. However, according to Dr. Tori Hudson ND 1 “despite these recommendations, consider that all women should had annual Paps; this is to ensure that they also get an annual exam.” This is vital when it comes to the importance of early detection.
How is it treated?
Conventionally some practitioners may wait and see if the body cleared the virus on it’s own. This of course depends on if your immune system is not compromised and you do not have any other risk factors. If there is any form of dysplasia, especially if it is moderate or severe, the most common form of treatment is to remove it. This can be done by cryotherapy, conization, laser ablation, or loop surgical excision procedure (LEEP). All of these procedures statistically very effective in removing infected tissue however they can cause changes to the opening of the cervix that may affect fertility and pregnancy. (Link) This is a huge concern for a lot of woman and is also one of the reasons they will seek alternative treatments.
Do I have any other options?
When seeking other options, people are becoming increasingly more aware of how effective preventative medicine can be in treating HPV and cervical dysplasia. Just like many other viruses there are certain factors that can get in the way of your bodies ability to heal itself such as smoking, nutrient deficiencies, and immune deficiency. A more natural approach involves taking on a healthy life style, engaging in safe sexual practices, and boosting the immune system through proper nutrition and supplementation. A Naturopathic Physician can assess and guide you through several non-invasive protocols that can naturally enhance your bodies ability to heal itself.
Reference: Woman’s Encyclopedia of Natural medicine