The results of my Pap tests have been abnormal every six months for the past two years..
The results of my Pap tests have been abnormal every six months for the past two years. My gynecologist says there’s nothing I can do and that I will eventually need a biopsy. Do you agree?”
Garrett Swetlikoff, ND: A Pap smear is a sampling of cells taken from the cervix (entrance of the uterus) that is examined microscopically for the presence of abnormalities. Regular Pap smears have contributed significantly to the dramatic drop in cervical cancer rates over the past four decades in most developed countries. Different nations, provinces and states use a variety of rating systems to describe Pap smear results.
An abnormal result, which requires repeat evaluation every six months, usually suggests minor non-malignant concerns such as infection, inflammation or irritation. Infection with candida (yeast), chlamydia, trichomonas, gardnerella, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and human papillomavirus can cause abnormal changes leading to cervicitis (cervical inflammation). If Pap smear results become repetitively abnormal, further evaluation of the cervix can be done by colposcopy. A colposcope magnifies the cervix to make the abnormal areas more visible. Tiny biopsies (pieces of tissue) are taken from these areas, which are examined by a pathologist and graded accordingly. A biopsy is the most accurate and definitive test to determine the presence of precancerous (dysplasia) or cancerous changes occurring on the cervix. Pap smears are screening tests, whereas a biopsy is a diagnostic test. If there is any suspicion of cervical cancer or precancer, a biopsy must be taken.
The major risks factors for cervical dysplasia are as follows: inadequate screening, infection with human papillomavirus, multiple sexual partners, young age of first intercourse, sexual partners having sexually transmitted diseases, long-term oral contraceptive use and smoking.
Cervical disease and cancer is an excellent example of what preventive medicine can accomplish because in almost all cases, it is a preventable condition. In general, diets high in vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenes, selenium, zinc and folic acid have been found to be protective. Indole-3-carbinol, or more specifically di-indolemethane (DIM), a protective plant chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage has proven anti-estrogenic effects that make it a useful preventive for cervical cancer. Supplementation of all these nutrients may also be considered.
A variety of traditional herbal medicines have been used to support the immune system, assist in cervical membrane repair and eradicate infection. Examples include red clover, goldenseal, thuja, echinacea and the Chinese herb ligusticum. For local treatment, vitamin A or herbal suppositories are beneficial. For decades, naturopathic physicians have successfully used a medicated tampon called a Vaginal Depletion Pack for the treatment of mild to moderate cervical dysplasia. More severe forms usually require conventional intervention.
This problem is a good illustration of where conventional and complementary medicine can be simultaneously utilized for an enhanced benefit.