Stephanie Nishek, NMD
Whether this is your first abnormal Pap smear, or you have a history of abnormal Pap smears, there are treatment options available that you should be aware of. There are a number of things that can cause an abnormal Pap smear; the most common cause in females between the ages of 14-59 is exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is usually spread through sexual contact, but not exclusively. One study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2007 found that approximately 25% of females in the US between the ages of 14-59 carry the virus. The 14-19 year old age group had the highest rate of prevalence at 44.8% (1). It is likely that these percentages are currently higher.
Before determining an appropriate treatment, it is important to have a specific diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend further testing and/or cervical biopsy to do this. Once the diagnosis is established, there are a number of options. Conventional options include cryotherapy and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), which function to remove the affected area of the cervix by freezing or burning the affected tissues. Typically, these invasive procedures aren’t recommended until the tissue changes are significant. For this reason, a “watch and wait” approach is taken during early stages of infections.
Naturopathically, our goal is to use less invasive treatments and begin treating earlier in the course of the infection. Your treatment may include vitamins and herbs that may be recommended orally, vaginally, or both. Your doctor may also recommend nutritional and/or lifestyle changes to enhance your immune system. If the infection has progressed beyond the most superficial layers of tissue, a series of highly effective escharotic treatments may be indicated. This treatment method is an excellent alternative to cryotherapy and LEEP, especially for a woman of child-bearing age, as the conventional tissue removal methods may weaken the cervix. A weakening of the cervix may make it difficult to carry a pregnancy to term.
Escharotic treatments consist of applying specific solutions to the face of the cervix in a specific order with the intention of destroying the infected cells. You can expect to receive one treatment per week in your doctor’s office for approximately 8 consecutive weeks. Oral medicines and vaginal suppositories are usually utilized during the treatment period as well.
Receiving an abnormal Pap smear result can be scary and frustrating. It is important to remember that there are many causes for this condition, and many of those causes can be treated successfully using natural therapies.
Dunne, et al. (2007). Prevalence of HPV Infection Among Females in the United States.
JAMA, 297(8), 813-819