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My experience with genital warts

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I'm a 26 year old male who has recently been diagnosed with genital warts (a month ago.) Devastated me to say the least, but I'm over it now.

I had been developing what started off looking like a skin tag, which I have some on my neck (which is weird because I am in fairly good shape and definitely not obese but my mom has quite a few.) Anyways I freaked! I’ve only had a handful of partners. I began digging in online to see what was going on downtown. Found a bunch of pictures that made it look like a skin tag and a genital wart. I read that if you applied 5% vinegar on the lesion that if it was a genital wart it would appear white. Well I did this multiple times!! Not once did it turn white. I also read that it had a high false positive rate. So thinking it was a skin tag I schedule an appointment with a random dermatologist to get it removed because I thought my girlfriend wouldn’t like it. I get there and I have him check out some moles before we get started and a rash that develops during winter (thanks dads gene pool!) Well I'm nervous as heck cause there are two young (I'm not even sure if they were nurses) sitting there watching writing stuff down, but I wanted it gone so I asked him to look anyways. As soon as I pull the corner of my shorts down, "genital warts."

I lost my breath for a second. I then began to ramble not even sure if I made sense or what I asked exactly. I do know I made him take a biopsy, he asked why and then he looked at me like "Why are you questioning my diagnosis." He wrote a prescription for some ointment after taking the biopsy, then said to come back and left. Didn't give me any information, care tips, nothing. The only "tip" he has was telling my girlfriend when I got the results back (sorry but I think that's terrible advice) I was ready to explode when I got to my car. I cried, yelled, punched the steering wheel, sat there and called my mom. I know I seem like such a baby but man I didn't know what to do. I had just got in an extremely great relationship and had been for 10 months. I thought I was gonna lose her, what if I gave them to her, what if she gave them to me? I have never cheated in my life, and I know she has never cheated on me.

Anyway I get home and my girlfriend is sleeping on the couch, and I break the news there. She freaks, but she wants to stay together (amazing news for me.) She has had the HPV vaccine, which apparently their offering to boys now (I wish they did when I was a kid.)

Early the week after being diagnosed I receive the call confirming the diagnosis. I have since had mine frozen off (two different nurse girls laughing in the room and same ... embarrassing). I had found two small bumps not even close to the original and asked dermatologist and he just kinda shrugged his shoulders said "Yeah" and sprayed the spots. Just now healing from it so hard to say how it's going. I decided never to go to that dermatologist again. It's over and done with now. Luckily I had quit smoking and drinking back in April. So that was an easy adjustment. I'm beginning to work out regularly, pop vitamins, and eat better foods. All in all I hope to make a good recovery and I wish all the best of luck with it as well.

Don't let something like this get ya down, there's so many more positive things out there in life.

--A visitor to ASHA’s HPV Message Board Forum. Join the conversation at http://www.ashastd.org/phpBB/index.php.

 

Prathibha’s Story

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Offering cervical cancer tests to women in low-resource areas is a challenge, but one that’s well worth the effort.

This is a story that has been adapted from the Women’s Stories, Women’s Lives: Experiences with Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment, a publication of the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention.

Prathibha, a 37-year-old woman, lives in Maharashtra State, India. One day she heard from her neighbors that there was a team conducting cervical cancer screening in her area. When Pratibha arrived at her house, she saw two women from a cancer hospital talking to her husband about cervical cancer screening. He gave them permission to explain the procedure to her. They informed Prathibha that cervical cancer was the most common cancer in women in her region, but if detected early, it was a preventable disease.

Prathibha was not sure about getting screened, but the village elder, the panchayat, whose mother had died of cervical cancer when he was 10 years old, had already given his tacit approval, so her husband and mother-in-law agreed. The test was free, and she underwent the test even though she had no symptoms.

Prathibha’s test results were positive for cervical cancer. She was shocked, as she felt perfectly healthy. Further testing confirmed that she had cancer and the doctor advised she get a hysterectomy. Prathibha couldn’t believe that she was in such a dire predicament — going from feeling perfectly healthy to being diagnosed with cancer in a matter of days! She then underwent hysterectomy.

While in the hospital, Prathibha talked with another woman who had advanced cancer and was very worried about the future of her young child. It was at this time that it struck Prathibha how lucky she was to get the opportunity to be screened and treated. She said, “These people saved me. They have not only saved a woman but they have saved the mother of a small child. I am lucky that I live in the village of Osmanabad District, which has been selected for this program. I am thankful to these people, who put in so much effort to convince me to get tested and prevent cancer. They saved my life and my family.”

This story clearly illustrates the challenges of women’s lives in low resource settings. It also shows the challenges posed by husbands, mothers-in-law, local myths and fears, and, poor health services that prevent women from being screened for cervical cancer. Many women continue to die from the ravages of cervical cancer. Let us hope that stories such as Prathibha’s will help raise public awareness, and that millions of women will learn to battle a disease that, for the present, they don’t even know they can conquer.

Story contributed by:
Shobha S. Krishnan, M.D
Founder and President, Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer
Experts’ Panel, American Social Health Association
Member, Medical Advisory Board, National Cervical Cancer Coalition
Author, The HPV Vaccine Controversy
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

I'm tired of being single and sexless in the city!

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Being diagnosed with HPV is not easy (my diagnosis came in May 2008). I still don't know what kind of HPV (“high risk” or “low risk”) I have. I had an abnormal Pap and my ex- boyfriend had genital warts, yet my doctor said she never saw any warts on me. My Pap returned to normal by itself within six months, and all have been normal since. My ex had two cryotherapy freezing treatments to get rid of the warts and has never looked back. He keeps saying it was an allergic reaction to something, but I don't think so.

Anyway, he broke up with me and now has a new girlfriend. Me, on the other hand...I am still very confused and more mentally/emotionally scarred than physically harmed by the whole experience. I have not been sexually active since 2009. It's my own fault because everyone keeps saying its not a big deal, but in my mind it is. When I tell guys I date about HPV, they don’t even think twice about it. They ask a couple of questions, then move on like I never mentioned it. I'm almost 28 years old and I need to move forward in the relationship/love area of my life. It has been hard because I really wish I had more defined answers. I hate mysteries. I wish I had skipped the Pap that day in ‘08. That way I would have never known about HPV. I can't bring myself to have sex with anyone because I'm afraid I am invisibly contagious and will pass HPV to them. Ugh! So lost and I'm wasting my life away. I feel like I'm living a double life. In public I'm happy and going out with guys (knowing that I'm not getting close to anyone because of this Wall of China I have put up), in private I'm sad and feeling like I've messed up my body and there's no second chance for me. Hate to be Debbie Downer, just needed a place to vent and be open.

I told myself this year I would be more open to building a relationship with a nice guy and not worry too much about the whole HPV thing. I think I have made very small steps towards doing that. I've been going on quite a few dates. I just haven't been putting in the effort of making anything work. I need to work on getting over the fear of a physical encounter. Anyway... I'm trying over here. I'm tired of being single and sexless in the city!

We’re sorry to hear things are still hard to deal with, and the emotional side of HPV is too often overlooked. Clinics often think they've done enough by treating the warts or cervical cell changes that occur. Studies have shown time and time again that the emotional fallout is, not uncommonly, much harder to take than any medical implications. In fact, there is a story in the News Desk section of this issue that talks about the emotional impact of being diagnosed with genital warts.

It's also not uncommon for abnormal Paps to become normal again, and often this happens even without treatment. The immune response usually clears HPV over time (typically within 24 months) but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s good that you’re taking the “baby steps” and dating. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t think that by having sex you’re exposing a partner to something horrible. Keep in mind that HPV infections are very common, so much so that almost everyone who has sex contracts HPV at some point. Most HPV infections aren’t dangerous and are not likely to be persistent –ed.

 

I truly thought I had been “sentenced” to developing cancer

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I am college student and have just been diagnosed with "high risk" HPV. I am going for a colposcopy soon and while I am still scared, the ASHA site allayed many of my fears. When I read that even "high- risk" HPV does not necessarily cause cancer, I was quite relieved, because I truly thought I had been “sentenced” to developing cancer.

My fiancé is the only sexual partner I have ever had and I never expected to get an STI with only having one partner. My fiancé and I were tested for her STIs before becoming sexually active because I just wanted peace-of-mind but I was not tested for HPV, and there is no screening for men. We have decided not to let this ruin our relationship. He attempted to comfort me by saying it must have been him that gave it to me, but I feel that blaming him for this is utterly pointless.

My biggest fear secondary to cancer is infertility, or not being able to carry babies to term. I intend to start a family after getting married, and I will truly be devastated if I cannot have children. Information on this subject is what I hope to gain at my next gynecologist visit, but any information from others would be greatly appreciated!

I think ASHA is a great resource, and I am an advocate for sharing personal stories with others: It can help relive stress. Thank you for listening to my story!

 

I was just so unaware!

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I was diagnosed with genital warts today, though for the past week and a half I suspected I had it and have been doing much online research. I’ve been feeling really ugly and disgusted with myself, beginning to wonder if I should from this point forward lead the celibate life. I am a twenty-seven year old female, who has had four sexual partners in my life.

My HPV journey started two months ago when I noticed a small bump in the rectal area that a physician informed me was a "skin tag". I am prone to "skin tags" so I didn't think this was a terribly odd diagnosis, except they never itched when I’ve had them before. After using a medication for several weeks my symptoms just got worse and I started checking online for more information, which is when I started to believe that my "tags" were really genital warts. Last week, I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood and today my suspicions were confirmed; I was diagnosed with genital warts, which were treated with an acid. I will also have my annual Pap test to screen for cervical cell changes related to “high risk” HPV. Thus far, all of my Pap’s have been normal.

I am certainly frustrated in that I tried to be a proactive patient and my efforts lead to a misdiagnosis. As other visitors to your site have written, I too am surprised that more information about HPV (i.e. that it can be contracted even when condoms are used) is not available in doctor's offices. I am learning that this is a very prevalent disease that is easy to contract. I was just so unaware!

I’m hopeful that more women (and men) will become aware of HPV. I am certainly grateful for this website, the stories shared by others, and for the kind staff at Planned Parenthood that directed me to ASHA’s site.

--Thanks for the kind words, and it’s great that you found caring, well-informed health care providers who answered your questions. We agree that HPV awareness is important: One key aspect of this is understanding how very common HPV infections are, that virtually everyone who’s sexually active will contact the virus. Having HPV is normal! –ed

 


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