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Personal Perspectives

I thought "It can't happen to me"

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Personal perspectives

I went for my routine yearly check up but this time I went to a different gynecologist, thinking that it will be just another boring consultation where they just make me uncomfortable.  

She started explaining about HPV and said that she only uses the liquid Pap test, as the lab gets a better sample, clearer and free of obscuring material. Lab technicians who read these slides say the difference is like night and day between the traditional Pap and the new liquid technology.

I just heard “blah-blah-blah” and couldn’t wait to leave.  The doctor looked at me and with a very strict voice said “women are not educated enough about these things and think ‘it cannot happen to me,’” which is exactly what I thought.

I went home waiting for the little piece of paper to arrive in the post saying “normal” but instead received a phone call from the clinic asking me to make an appointment for a biopsy, as there was pre-cancerous cells caused by HPV had been detected.  Suddenly everything stopped… my busy day at work did not matter anymore… nothing mattered anymore… My head was spinning with all these questions “what now and why is it that I don’t know about these things”?

I went back to the gynecologist, was strapped in like a horse while she performed the biopsy and promised myself never to complain again when going for a Pap test. The doctor phoned me a few days later and said the test results show that I have HPV type 16 and CIN III (the Pap only showed CIN II). However, it turns out that I am one lucky girl, as my doctor confirmed the operation was very successful. The end is almost here!!

 

"I'm glad I found your site"

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This morning my doctor called and told me that I had an abnormal Pap test and that I have HPV, “a genital warts virus that causes cervical cancer.” She said that I will have it for the rest of my life, will probably have warts that come and go for the rest of my life, there is no cure, and that if I ever have kids I will have to have a C-section so they won’t contract it.

Obviously distraught with the news we had an STD that one of us gave to the other (and ideas of infidelity in our minds), my boyfriend and I started looking up information about it online. We found your HPV resource center through Google.

I think that your website is great. I have worked in a pharmacology research lab for the past year, so it makes total sense to me that even healthcare providers can sometimes be misinformed (I know now that warts come from HPV types that aren’t associated with cancer).

Resources like yours seem so imperative to have available to women, because someone who didn’t know better would probably suffer emotionally from being told the things I heard at my clinic. I am really thankful for the information on your website, because without it I would still feel dirty, anxious, and sad, like I did all morning, until I go for my colposcopy.

We’re glad to hear from you, and that you found the ASHA site helpful. There is a great deal of misinformation about HPV, even among professionals, and your provider clearly has some old, misinformation about HPV infection. As you stated, the types of HPV that cause warts are different from those linked with cervical cancer.  It’s especially troubling you were told you wouldn’t be able to have a natural delivery; HPV is seldom a threat to either mother or baby, and C-sections are rarely indicated here.

If you’d like to connect with others, visit our HPV forum. -ed.

 
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I am male and recently had unprotected sex with a new partner who, a few days later, told me she has abnormal cells on her cervix caused by HPV. She says she possibly has cervical cancer.

Three years ago I had genital warts, all of which resolved quickly without treatment and did not return. I literally feel sick to my stomach and have been so worried. I have researched anal cancer and find that I might be at risk: I have a weak immune system, a history of HPV infection, and the bloating around the anal area.

Since this recent contact I have been under severe levels of stress. I have developed some cramping and bloating in my lower anus, and my doctor is adamant this is stress related as I have a serious phobia about having HPV. I don’t know what to do!

--First, anal cancer is a relatively rare disease It. isn’t related to the low-risk HPV types found with genital warts, so your previous diagnosis would probably have no impact. Anal infections with high-risk HPV types are thought to be most prevalent in those who engage in receptive anal sex, and men who have sex with men are especially at risk. Having sex with a woman doesn’t increase your risk for the disease. The University of California, San Francisco has a website with a wealth of information on anal cancer.--ed

 

Know that you are not alone

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I found out I had HPV when I was 25 years old. At first the doctors told me it was nothing to worry about, that it would probably go away on its own. I had no idea at the time what type of HPV I had nor did I know that some types of the virus are linked to cervical cancer. No one told me! I had normal Paps for 3 years after that and it did not seem like a big deal until at 28 I was diagnosed with CIN-3 [significant cervical precancer] and had a LEEP. That freaked me out big time. I went through all the common feelings of guilt and shame.

I told potential sexual partners about HPV and I did not have one guy freak out on me. They were all really cool about it. It helps that since men don't have a cervix, there really is no real fear of cancer--the incidence of HPV-related penile cancer is extremely low.

I had a few normal Paps in between and then one year ago I had a CIN-2 diagnosis. This time I am with a GYN who is very knowledgeable and he recommended cryotherapy, which was much more tolerable than the LEEP. Since I’ve had surgery on my cervix already, he manages my care in such a way that removes as little cervical tissue as possible. He also recommends nutritional supplements, like B vitamins.

I am at present waiting on test results of my most recent Pap, so we'll see what happens. I am now happily married to a wonderful man who is very supportive of me. We have had the discussion about what life would be like if the precancer ever progressed to frank cancer and I had to have a hysterectomy. We have come to a place of peace about this. It may sound like "future tripping" to some, but I find that if I can imagine being okay with a severe outcome, it gives me great peace of mind. 

At the end of the day, I don't know who gave me HPV and I don't really care anymore. What I do know is that in some ways HPV has been a very positive thing in my life. Having HPV taught me how to speak up and be honest, how to take care of myself better (stress is an aggravating factor) and most of all, to become my own advocate. I do not take this diagnosis lightly, neither as a patient nor as a physician, and it's so sad that so many of us have been cast aside by our health care providers with scant information about our condition. Lastly, I am thrilled that Gardasil is available, and should I have daughters, I will be sure to get them vaccinated! I missed the age window by one or two years and I always get a little twinge of sadness whenever I see the commercials.

To all of you out there struggling with this diagnosis, know that you are not alone. Millions of people have HPV, even if they don't talk about it. You are not damaged or defective in any way. You are perfect just as you are. Take some deep breaths and know that everything is going to be OK!

 


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