We thought combining HPV & Panic was clear (& genius) for this title until our proof reader didn’t get it. Keeping it anyway.
Note, we are no experts, but this is what we have learnt on the topic of Human papillomavirus also known as HPV.
A routine SMEAR (not to be feared) tells you you have HPV, you read 3 letters, and freak, you hear the words cervical cancer linked to HPV, you FREAK – but do not freak, you are one step ahead, and amazing for putting your health first and having the SMEAR in the first place, and FYI, HPV is present in approx. 60-70% of the world’s population. You are not alone, that is A LOT of people!
HPV works in two ways, it can lead to cervical cancer (can we not), or your immune system can fight it (yes please). You are much more likely to have the latter, 80% of people clear it themselves, but if you are on the cervical cancer route (abnormal cells, and needing a colposcopy/biopsy/both), do not panic, HPV does not automatically mean you have cervical cancer, it just means you have abnormal cells, which can be removed if required.
The not-so-scary truth about HPV
While it is true that having HPV is necessary for getting cervical cancer, it’s also true that almost all HPV infections do NOT lead to cancer.
The chain of events that leads to cervical cancer starts with HPV infection, but almost all the time something intervenes to prevent cancer. That something is called your immune system, the SMEAR, and sometimes, a colposcopy/biopsy/both to find that you need to have the abnormal cells removed. Researchers believe that it can take between 10 and 30 years from the time of an initial HPV infection until a tumor forms, you take time to catch this (note why the SMEAR is so crucial). However, even when severely abnormal cells are seen on the cervix (a condition called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 3, or CIN3), these do not always lead to cancer.
We are not trying to tell you that HPV will always be OK, but we are trying to tell you, regular check-ups with your gynecologist are essential, and YOU ARE NOT ALONE. HPV and health is a priority, and not something people should feel they cannot talk about, HPV is so common that nearly all men and women get it at some point in their lives.
We visit Dr Aagje BAIS Gynaecologist, MD, PhD based in the MEDICLINIC in Arabian Ranches, she’s amazing, and an expert on all things HPV – she will look after you! You are not alone. Continue to have your SMEAR tests regularly, and you are in safe hands.