I doubt anyone truly enjoys getting a pap smear but this is one of the few medical tests that can detect pre-cancerous cells early enough that preventative care can make a significant difference. Prior to the development of the pap smear test in the 1950s, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of death for women in the United States; now cervical cancer is the 14th cause of death. While most people are exposed to HPV, it is unclear why some are able to get rid of the virus and others have difficulty. HPV can cause other genital cancers (anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile) as well as some head and neck cancers.
From my point of view, as a naturopathic doctor, a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia is a great opportunity to use complementary care and education to help your immune system handle an HPV infection. In addition to the appropriate conventional care, there are plenty of lifestyle and supplemental options to increase your chance of improving the results of your future pap smears and reducing the risk of cancer.
What do I do when someone schedules a consult with me for cervical dysplasia?
- Discuss their health history, risk factors, and goals.
- Provide education through discussion and handouts about food, stress management, and other lifestyle options to improve immune system function and overall health.
- Recommend supplements as appropriate to reduce risk of further abnormal pap smears and cancer risk.
- Answer any questions and explain the necessity and benefit of conventional medical care in conjunction with complementary care.
Lifestyle Choices to Improve Your Health
- If you smoke, make quitting your first priority. Smoking makes it harder for your immune system to get rid of the HPV virus.
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, etc. More fruits and vegetables in general help your immune system and provide antioxidants to protect cells.
- Stress management helps the immune system function better. Whether you meditate daily, do yoga regularly, or spend time in nature, your immune system will thank you.
- Practice safe sex to decrease the transmission of HPV and other STIs.
Read more about cervical dysplasia and HPV: Management of Cervical Dysplasia and Human Papillomavirus