This post is a follow up to the previous Smear (pap) Test one I did.
If you've had a smear test come back as abnormal, the following explanation may just answer a lot of your questions regarding what that means. Please do read the previous post which can be found here:
So, you've got the diagnosis of abnormal cervical cells and as I stated all over the last article, because I really want you to listen....that quite possibly means that it's NOT cancer, but abnormalities created as a result of a very common virus called the Human Papillova Virus or HPV for short.
YOU SHOULD NOT PANIC if you get a letter saying you have an abnormal smear test or if they state you have low grade or high grade dyskaryosis. In my previous article I talk all about the absolute horror of getting that letter through the post which states any of the above. It can really upset women and make them terrified of the implications.
In simple terms; HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. However, before you fear the worst (that your other half has been messing around behind your back!) it's a really common virus effecting almost ALL sexually active men and women at some point in their lives. There's no shame in having it. It can be caught at any part of sexual contact via skin to skin contact. So that means, all types of sexual intercourse including normal, oral and anal sex.
It's not choosy, it just likes everyone! It's a little like herpes in as much as it stays within your system for years and can remain dormant. There are over 100 variants of the virus and most are not harmful.
Many people contract the virus and don't ever have any side effects. The body fights it off and they never develop any illnesses as a result. Some contact the version that leads to genital warts, and some get the strain that can cause cancer. The type of HPV virus that causes genital warts is not the same as the one that causes cancer.
So - what can you do about HPV? Well, as the illustration suggests YOU are the key to not getting cancer of the cervix. Regular smears are the only way to prevent abnormal cells turning into full blown cancer ones. Cell changes are often referred to as Dyskarosis.
And just to reiterate.....anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person.
In anyone who has had multiple partners, it could have been your first sexual contact, the latest one or any in between. Our children in the UK are now being vaccinated against this virus because almost all kinds of cervical cancer are caused by a strain of HPV.
Once you become sexually active, you need to go for your smear tests because by far the best way of never getting cervical cancer is regular screening and treatment if abnormal cells are found!
HPV can also cause other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (calledoropharyngeal cancer).
The good news is that HPV cell changes are slow. Really slow. So chances are, if you discover any cell abnormalities, a quick treatment is all you need in order to get rid of them!
Below is a very unartistic diagram I drew to show the progression of HPV into cancer. I hope this will settle some nerves and give you some hope that even if you have been diagnosed with abnormalities, as long as they've found them early enough, there should be no reason to think you have cancer.
I hope this article and the one before helps some of you. I work with people who have either had, or are currently being diagnosed with cancers of all kinds. Fact is 1 in 4 of us will contract cancer at some point. Being on top of it is the key. Even if you don't have symptoms, DO get your pap smear tests done!
Author Emma Evans
Emma Evans runs Kent Therapy Clinic and also helps coach other therapists in her spare time when she's not seeing clients at her busy practice. This blog is full of useful articles and interesting facts to do with therapy in general. Please feel free to add your comments to the blog.