Cervical Cancer Screening, HPV and Cervical Dysplasia— What You Should Know

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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and San Francisco Natural Medicine would like to keep you informed on how to obtain and maintain optimal cervical health and prevent cervical cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cervical cancer was previously the leading cause of death for women in the United States. However, due to cervical cancer screening, the number of these deaths has decreased. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most commonly sexually transmitted infection, has been found to be associated with precancerous and cancerous cells on the cervix as well as genital warts. Did you know that almost 79 million Americans have HPV, and many people do not even know that they have the infection? At least half of all sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives. In females, Pap tests are used to screen for cervical cancer, and co-testing can be done to look for HPV. We want you to know your status and can do these tests for you at SFNM.

What if your screening test is HPV positive and/or you have abnormal cervical cells (called cervical dysplasia)?

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you do have a positive HPV test or cervical dysplasia is found, you will more than likely be referred for a colposcopy. This is not invasive and involves a pelvic exam to visualize the cervix. The difference between a colposcopy and a regular gyn exam is that a solution of vinegar is placed on the vaginal walls and cervix, and then a colposcope is used to shine light on and magnify the image of the tissue so the gynecologist can view abnormal cells better. If there are more pronounced cellular changes, a biopsy can then be done while you are having the colposcopy performed to see if the abnormal cells are cancerous or not.

What are your treatment options for cervical dysplasia?

Most conventional gynecologists will suggest a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) to remove cervical dysplastic cells. LEEP uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out abnormal tissue. There is often up to a 3-week period of vaginal bleeding and discharge following this procedure, and complications such as infection and scarring of the cervix may occur. If indeed the cervix is scarred, it may not open and close properly, which can interfere with conception and normal childbirth.

You may not be aware that naturopathic doctors are trained in gynecology as well as natural medicine for the management of cervical dysplasia and HPV. We can treat the cervix with topical escharotic treatments, provide systemic herbal and nutritional support, and boost your immune system. The specialized cervical escharotic treatments are a safe and effective natural option for management of most cases of cervical dysplasia and HPV which can cause the dysplasia. The term "escharotic" refers to the sclerosing and exfoliating effect of an application of medicine to abnormal tissue. The abnormal tissue loses water, dies and eventually sloughs off. The therapy can take a series of 10-15 cervical escharotic treatments (performed in office). For less advanced cases of cervical dysplasia, herbal vaginal suppositories may be used. Our treatments also do not carry the risks that the LEEP does. This treatment is a safe and effective option.

And don’t forget, men can have and transmit HPV too!

Often the HPV virus is passed back and forth between sexual partners. At this time there is no FDA-approved HPV test for men. But men can also be treated with the oral protocol as well as topical treatment to eliminate the virus and reduce its spread.

I have had great success treating women with mild, moderate, and severe cervical dysplasia with escharotic treatments, and I feel passionate about their value as an option in health care. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or to find out if this treatment is right for you.