Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is transmitted through sexual contact and affects the cells of the cervix, which is the opening of uterus. In April, 2011 the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the cobas HPV test which is able to determine the high risk types of HPV. This allows doctors and patients to make better decisions about the best treatment options for diagnosed patients. HPV can be a self-resolving virus. This means that the body’s immune system is sometimes able extinguish the virus on its own. Sometimes, however, HPV can cause the cells of the cervix to start creating abnormal cells that cause cervix dysplasia (precancerous cells) or cervical cancer.
Currently there are four standard medical treatments that are used for patients with HPV. The first option is for the doctor to watch and wait. In this scenario the doctor recommends no action but instead asks the patient to come back to get another Pap smear six months to one year later. The second option is cryotherapy which involves using liquid nitrogen on the cervix to freeze the abnormal cells. The third option is a cone biopsy to remove cone shaped area of the cervix which is then viewed under the microscope to make sure the abnormal cells are removed. The fourth option is the loop electrosurgical excision procedure, LEEP, where a painless electrical current is used to remove the abnormal cells. The idea behind all of the treatments is to remove the HPV cells to prevent them from becoming precancerous or cancer cells; these options may be important if the patient has the more aggressive HPV genotypes.
In the next article I will talk about natural treatments that can be used along with the conventional treatments in the watch-and-wait scenario instead of doing nothing.
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