There are an estimated 20 million Americans currently infected with the Human Papilloma Virus, commonly referred to as HPV. Some strains of the HPV virus cause genital warts and can be easily removed using topical agents, minor surgery, or a method of freezing called cryotherapy. These strains don’t usually progress to serious diseases. High-risk strains of HPV on the other hand are the known cause of nearly all cervical cancers and some throat, oral, and anal cancers.
More than 23% of women in the US are infected with the high-risk strains of HPV, with approximately 10,800 new cases of HPV associated cervical cancer diagnosed each year. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and fourth leading cause of cancer death in females worldwide.
What can you do to prevent cervical cancer? The answers are simple:
- Keep your number of sexual partners low. Studies show that lifetime sexual partners greater than 3 have increased risk.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes. Tobacco has an immunosuppressive effect in addition to a high level of carcinogens. This can prevent your body from clearing HPV infections and cause direct DNA damage.
- Use protection during intercourse, especially if you are not in a monogamous relationship.
- Practice stress management. Higher levels of perceived stress are associated with lower clearance of HPV viruses and increased development of cancer.
- Schedule regular paps. If you’re under 30 and have never had an abnormal result, you should repeat your pap every three years. If you’re over 30 years of age and have never had an abnormal pap, repeat your pap every five years and add on a high-risk HPV test.
January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month. If you are a woman and haven’t had a pap in a while, schedule an appointment with your physician. We can prevent cervical cancer by following the routine screening guidelines and with lifestyle modification. If you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes, schedule an appointment with your naturopathic physician. There is an extremely effect oral HPV protocol that uses high doses of antioxidants like green tea extract and vitamin E to support your body and rid it of HPV. There is also vaccination using the Gardasil vaccine that may benefit some individuals. Talk with your naturopathic doctor to determine the best approach for you to prevent cervical cancer.