For the past 8 months I have been in the neurotic and distracted mess of a headspace brought on by a cervical cancer scare. From a questionably “bad PAP” in June to a biopsy in October, and a thousand questions and confusions in between, I have been navigating the unclear world of my cervix and its wayward cells. As someone who has been avoiding a PAP for far too long (not recommended), to suddenly have that many people looking at my sickly cervix was a tad overwhelming.
Lately HPV (the most common sexually transmitted viral infection in the world) has gotten a lot of awareness campaigns, press and attention with the recent release of an HPV vaccine available to women, but I was amazed to hear that 87% of teens had not heard of the disease. For those of us familiar with HPV, we’ve heard the statistic that HPV is responsible for 90% of cervical cancer cases, and that up to 1 in 3 women have the virus, but statistics such as these can cause the average owner of a cervix to panic and expect the very worse. And expect the worse is what I did. In the past 8 months I have gone from being stoic and reasonable, to crying hysterically in front of med students, convinced I was at death’s door with few answers to console me.
The problem with HPV is that there are so may different varieties (over 100) with so many varying degrees of worry- some will indeed cause cervical cancer, but others cause very treatable genital warts, others do nothing and some simply go away on their own. Testing for HPV is also not very common - my personal HPV testing only tested for a small number of high risk strains of the virus and had to happen at a hospital, not at my local doctor.
In all my neurotic panic stricken 8 month madness, I did find some solace in this piece of advice (half way down the page) that I came across by accident while waiting for my biopsy results. Sasha’s advice to a partner concerned by his girlfriend’s HPV diagnosis answered a whole wack o’ questions the doctors in all their “doctor-speak” simply couldn’t:
“HPV doesn’t help its intelligibility at all by being so deranged. Transitory, incurable, cancerous, benign… Jesus H., make up your mind!”
Yesterday, my biopsy came back cancer-free and my HPV results negative. My cells are still a bit wayward but I’ll take the follow up exam over the confusion any day. If you want to learn more about loving your cervix and what you can do to take care of it, read more here.