PAP smears, although unpleasant to most women, is an annual experience that is endured, for it serves as a screening tool for HPV and cervical cancer. Since its inception in 1940’s, PAP smears has been helpful in detecting cervical dysplasia, cellular changes to the cervix that have the potential of progressing to cancer.
What can be more unpleasant, and oftentimes upsetting, is the call from the doctor’s office that the PAP smear came back abnormal. What does that even mean? The questions start piling in:
Do I have HPV? Where did I get it? Can I be treated? Do I have cancer? Do I need surgery?
During a PAP, cervical cells are collected and sent in for processing. Test results are then classified as normal, abnormal but undetermined significance, or as dysplasia, which is further subdivided into low grade and high grade. Low grade lesions (i.e. LSIL, CIN1) refer to cellular abnormalities that are less likely to progress to cancer, versus high grade lesions,(i.e. HSIL, CIN2, CIN3)which more likely represent or progress to a precancerous or cancerous lesion. These lesions are in reference to atypical squamous cells (ASC), to be differentiated from atypical glandular cells (AGC). The latter has a higher tendency towards endometrial or cervical cancer.
When abnormal cells are detected, HPV will also be tested for, since studies have shown a strong correlation with high risk HPV and cervical cancer. HPV is very common, and affects almost most sexually active adults in their lifetime. HPV is not the same as HIV and herpes. Usually, you don’t even experience symptoms with HPV. A functioning immune system can oftentimes fight off the infection naturally. Most women with HPV infection clear the infection within 8-24 months. Studies have reported 80% of low grade lesions and 40-50% of high grade lesions regress within a year.
It’s important to understand that an abnormal PAP and/or a positive HPV test does not equate to cancer; further testing needs to be done for confirmation. Progression to cervical cancer usually involves persistent infection of a high risk HPV virus over many years. Moreover, most women with HPV never even get dysplasia.
Depending on age and test results, your doctor may suggest further testing (i.e. colposcopy), observation, or a treatment procedure. Conventional treatments include ablation via laser or cryotherapy or an excisional procedure (i.e. LEEP, conization).
Naturopathic Medicine offers a non-surgical solution for treating cervical dysplasia. The goal of naturopathic treatments are three-fold:
- Boost immunity
- Kill the virus
- Slow or halt disease progression
It’s also important to address these goals via diet and lifestyle. For instance, smokers have a two to three fold increased risk of developing cervical cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially those high in Vitamin C, selenium, Vitamin E and carotenoids, can possibly be cancer protective.
Dr. Nguyen has trained with Dr. Tori Hudson (Portland, OR) and Dr. Clark Hansen (Scottsdale, Az), pioneers in the natural treatment of cervical dysplasia.
Dr. Nguyen offers a treatment protocol that involves six weeks of biweekly in-office treatments, where an herbal tincture is applied to the cervix. Additionally, herbal suppositories are utilized during and after the procedure to help slough off abnormal cells, as well as heal and support the healthy cells. Herbal, homeopathic and nutritional support is also provided throughout the whole duration of the protocol before repeating a PAP.
Through September, Dr. Nguyen will be offering a discount to this protocol. Please call (310) 914-5010 or (310)553-8883 for more information or to set up an appointment.