HPV is short for human papillomavirus. It is considered a sexually transmitted disease because you can get it during sex BUT this is really important to understand, it's not ONLY transmitted through sexual acts. HPV is not transmitted through bodily fluids such as semen or saliva, it is transmitted through skin. That means that HPV can be passed on through any kind of skin-to-skin contact such as holding hands. Of course, there is a lot of skin-to-skin contact during sex, oral sex, hand jobs, fingering, and other sex acts so most people who get it have no idea who they got it from, nor do they even know that they have it. It is an infection that affects both males and females.
HPV is a DNA virus which causes changes in the DNA instructions when cells replicate. Different strains cause different cellular changes. Since HPV is a virus that affects the skin and the moist membranes that line your body it can show up in many different ways. There are more than 100 types of HPV with the majority of HPV strains being harmless. For example, genital warts are caused from HPV. They are harmless but annoying. But some HPV strains can cause health problems.
Many females are aware that certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer because there is periodic screening for it (called a PAP smear). But HPV doesn't only cause cervical cancer in females. There are strains that can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulva in females, penile cancer in males, and anal & throat cancer which can effect anyone. 4 out of 10 cancers caused by HPV occur in males. However, statistically males get throat cancer from HPV at a rate that is 5 times that of females.
Unlike common cold viruses, HPV can stay in your body for years without you knowing. Some people's immune systems clear the virus quickly but for other people, the virus can lay dormant until your immune system gets overworked. As we age, we endure more and more stress which weakens our immune system as well as aging bodies don't work as well as newer ones. This is why many females in their later years develop HPV symptoms and often have difficulty clearing the virus. They usually contract the virus when they are younger without knowing it, then get abnormal pap smears later when their immune system is weakened.
Anyone with skin. Since it is transmitted through skin, anyone that engages in skin to skin contact with others is at risk. There are documented cases of people getting HPV from non-sexual activities1 but sexual activities increases your risk2. Since most people will indeed have sex (and why wouldn't they), the majority of people will get HPV at some point in their life. This isn't an issue unless it is one of the strains that can cause cancer and even then there are things you can do.
Technically, there is no way to treat HPV. HPV is a virus and your immune system is the only thing that can get rid of HPV. However, when someone gets an abnormal PAP smear or if a dentist notices changes in the throat, the first thing that is usually recommended is a colposcopy (a procedure to closely examine the areas of concern).
When getting a cervical colposcopy, the exam will begin similar to a standard pelvic exam. The patient will have a speculum inserted, then the doctor will cleanse the cervix with a vinegar and water solution. This process can be uncomfortable and can burn a bit as the cervix is highly innervated. After the cleansing, usually an iodine solution is then swabbed on the cervix in order to help identify any abnormal cells.
If there are visual abnormal cells, the doctor will often recommend to take a biopsy to see to what degree of cellular changes are occurring.
A biopsy is when a small tissue sample is taken. There are three basic kinds of biopsies for cervical cell changes. Other types of biopsies for other areas will be similar but there are differences.
Colposcopic/punch biopsy - A small circular blade that looks a bit like a hole punch is used to "punch" out the cells. The doctor will need to go several mm down in order to get to the deeper cells. Most people experience a pinching sensation that dissipates quickly, some don't feel much at all, while others will experience more pain. These are what are normally performed during a colposcopy.
Cone biopsy - It is a minor surgery so the patient will be given general anesthesia. The surgeon will use a scapel to cut out a cone shape tissue sample from the cervix. Like the LEEP procedure, there are no set practices and standards to the depth at which the surgeon will go. They use their own judgment to decide the depth. The deeper the procedure, the higher risk of nerve and other injuries to the cervix such as cervical scarring that can cause future miscarriages. Some females experience the same kind of side-effects from a LEEP, including sexual dysfunction, when they get cone biopsies.
Endocervical curettage (ECC) - This is also a minor surgery so general anesthesia will be administered. The surgeon will use a surgical instrument that is shaped like a hook or scoop at the end called a "curette". The cells in the endocervical canal are cut/scraped out using the curette.
If your results of the biopsy show cervical dysplasia (abnormal cervical cells), then the most common recommendation is to get a LEEP or LLETZ procedure. This procedure uses an electrified wire to slice off the irregular cells of the cervix. Then the cervix is cauterized to prevent bleeding.
While the LEEP procedure does remove the cells, it does not get rid of the virus so many people experience recurrent cervical cell changes. Currently there is no medical standard for when to recommend a LEEP. However, based on the research and weighing the side effects of a LEEP, the following seems to be what is considered standard of care practice:
Since most people will clear HPV on their own a "wait and see" approach is used. Another PAP is scheduled for the next year. Cervical cancer is a slow growing cancer so there is a higher probability of the body clearing the CIN1 then developing cancer at this stage.
A short "wait and see" period is often recommended. In general, that looks like getting a PAP every 6 months to monitor cellular changes and whether or not the body clears the virus. It is not uncommon for females to have clear pap smears but still test positive for the virus after developing CIN2 since the clearing process is longer with CIN2 then with CIN1. If the cellular changes go down to CIN1, then either the 6 month or 1 year pap is usually recommended.
This is the stage before cancer but it's important to note that it is NOT cancer. In fact, only about 0.5% of CIN3 cases become cancerous and 1.9% will end up with recurrent CIN3 but not necessarily cancer. With that said, it is important to closely monitor the cellular changes at this stage. This seems to be the only stage which LEEP should be recommended based on the research.
Regardless of what level of CIN or whether or not a LEEP is done, it's imperative to support the immune system in order to get rid of HPV. Ironically, the stress of wondering about whether or not cancer will develop aids the development of irregular cells.
While considered to be safe since the risk of death is low, there are side effects that most doctors do not discuss such as the fact that about 1 out of 5 women experience some sexual dysfunction. I discuss this further in Sex After LEEP: How to Heal Your Body and Get Back to What You Love.
Yes. The only way to get a negative HPV result is naturally. Remember HPV is a virus. While a LEEP procedure may remove the abnormal cells of the cervix, the LEEP procedure does not cure the virus. Only your immune system can clear the virus.
The vast majority of females will clear the HPV virus within a year after getting a CIN1 diagnosis without doing anything different in their lives. But with CIN2 & CIN3 diagnosis, it often requires extra immune system support to clear the virus.
I personally cleared CIN2/3 within a year of diagnosis. I know of hundreds of other women that have done it, too. As I'm not a doctor or licensed medical professional, I cannot give any advice on what you should or shouldn't do. What I can do is tell you what worked for me.
I supported myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to heal my cervical dysplasia naturally.
When I got my diagnosis, I went deep into research mode. I was lucky to stumble across a supplement regime that is recommended in Japan for people that are diagnosed with CIN. It included taking the supplement AHCC. During my research, I learned that other supplements are beneficial in supporting healthy cervical cell growth and cell growth in general. So I also took DIM, Calcium D-Glucarate, and Glutathione among others.
Trauma is a major contributing factor to weakened immune systems. There is now lots of research showing that traumatic childhoods (which I had), have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the individual. As it turns out, trauma is stored in the body (want to learn more about how and why? Check out my FREE Practical Neurobiology masterclass on Stress & Trauma) so knowing this, I finally started doing what I had been instructing my clients to do and developed simple embodiment practices that I could do multiple times a day that fit in with my busy life.
Learning how to identify your emotions in your body and allow them to pass through is only part of the puzzle. The other part is to change the way you think and feel about the events (traumatic or not) that have happened to you. It was during this time that I developed the Unstuckable Method that I now use for myself and my clients.
*NOTE: Unstuckable Method link goes to my book "Get Unstuckable" on Amazon and I of course make money on the purchase.
This was probably one of the harder aspects. I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about connecting to my inner wisdom. With the constant chatter in my head (negative self talk, worrying, stressing, etc), it was really difficult to hear my wise inner voice. I was so used to being so critical about myself, that I couldn't hear my true self... the one that feels worthy of being loved, confident, and self compassionate. It began with journaling, but I also used many of the practices in Simple Self Love to connect to myself.
These are all aspects that I continue to work on every day and will for the rest of my life especially now that I am healthier and feel better than I have in years.
If you're struggling with HPV, know that you are not alone. It's a virus that most people will contract at some point in their lives. And there are things that you can do to support your body to heal naturally. Remember, your body was designed to heal.
If you're ready to learn how to support yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and physically so you can heal yourself naturally, then I'm inviting you to check out my program Quantum Sexuality.
Quantum Sexuality helps overwhelmed, stressed, and undervalued women that constantly put the needs of others before their own to feel confident, connected, and sexy by providing step-by-step coaching and education specifically designed to guide them through the process of healing and transmuting energy by harnessing their neurobiology so that they can handle all of life's ups and downs with self-compassion and experience true pleasure and satisfaction in their lives.