Abnormal Pap Results; A Natural Approach to Cervical dysplasia
by Tara Skye Goldin,N.D.
Health Smart Today Fall 2004
It’s been two weeks since your annual
health exam, and you haven’t given it a second thought since
you left the doctor’s office – that is, until your
phone rings. You’re told the results of your routine Pap
smear are abnormal. You stop breathing, your heart starts racing,
and you can feel your throat tighten. “Do I have cancer?”
Thousands of women receive news of abnormal Pap results each
year, and most of them fear the worst. Fortunately only a small
number of abnormal Pap tests indicate cancer. The great majority
are caused by cervical dysplasia, which is the abnormal growth
of cells in the cervix. Cases of cervical dysplasia are classified
as mild, moderate , or severe. Mild dysplasia is very treatable
and can often be resolved non invasively using natural medicine.
Many cases of mild dysplasia are simply a result of inflammation
or irritation caused by yeast or bacteria. The cervical cells
usually return to normal once the infection is treated.
Risk factors for developing cervical dysplasia include a compromised
immune system, early onset of sexual activity, giving birth prior
to age 22, cigarette smoking, multiple male sexual partners, and
possibly oral contraceptive use.
Eight to ninety percent of women with cervical dysplasia have
a current or prior human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. HPV
is a group of more than 80 different viral strains. About one
third are sexually transmitted, and some types cause genital warts.
Treatment Options: Conventional and holistic approaches
Due to limited insurance coverage and lack of access to, or
knowledge about, good alternative medicine, most women choose
conventional treatments for cervical dysplasia With low-grade
lesions, conventional practitioners generally recommend a wait-and-see
approach, repeating Pap smears every three months for one year.
During this time, they are looking to see if the Pap smear results
return to normal, worsen, or stay the same. For persistent low-grade
lesions, the conventional approach is to do a procedure called
LEEP (loop electro surgical excision procedure) to remove the
lesion. Both conventional and alternative practitioners usually
recommend a colposcopy (a biopsy of the abnormal tissues) for women
with high grade lesions ro malignant lesions. Frequent follow-up
Pap smears are performed to monitor the situation.
Naturopathic doctors handle cervical dysplasia by both treating
the infection and boosting the immune system. Dr. John Bastyr,
the naturopathic doctor for whom Bastyr University in Seattle
is named, developed the protocol that is now widely used by alternative
practitioners. The treatment consists of various herbal vaginal
suppositories and specific immune-boosting and detoxifying herbs.
It also involves high doses of antioxidants such as beta-carotene,
folic acid, and vitamin C. These have been shown in several studies
to detoxify carcinogens and aid in preventing the cellular changes
that cause cervical dysplasia Some more advanced cases may require
multiple visits to the practitioner’s office where an herbal
mixture is applied directly to the cervix, but in most cases patients
can self administer their treatment in the privacy of their own
Tori Hudson, N.D. professor at the National College of Naturopathic
Medicine in Portland, Ore., and the author of The Women’s
Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Keats Publishing, 1999) did
a research study of 43 women with cervical dysplasia using a version
of Dr. Bastyr’s protocol and published the results in 1991.”
Of 43 women, 38 returned to normal, three had partial improvements,
and two stayed the same.” According to Dr. Hudson, the advantages
to the natural approach are clear. First, women who use Dr. Bastyr’s
approach have a lower risk of recurrence and are successful at
restoring healthy tissue. But an even greater benefit is that
they often experience an improvement in their overall health.
“One can choose to see a test result such as an abnormal
Pap smear as an opportunity to reflect on life and make positive
lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Hudson. And in that case, the
benefits of holistic treatment can reach far beyond improved Pap
Five years ago Catherine Drumheller, 32, of Westminster, Co ,
had a routine Pap smear indicate moderate cervical dysplasia It
had been years since her last Pap smear, so when the results came
back abnormal, she blamed herself. “ I was worried that
it indicated a serious problem and that I had brought it upon
myself by not getting regular checks,” Drumheller recalled.
“I was afraid I would need invasive surgical treatment.
Instead, I started naturopathic and nutritional treatment right
away, and my fear was alleviated.” Over the next six months,
her repeat Pap smears gradually returned to normal and she has
had normal Pap smear results ever since.
Drumheller decided to pursue alternative means to heal her cervical
dysplasia based upon her prior success with natural medicine.
“Natural medicine has always been very effective for me.
I wanted to get to the root of the problem rather than just cut
it out.” Since doing the treatment, Drumheller has also
noticed an overall improvement in her health and is no longer
plagued by the recurring throat infections she once suffered.
Other patients have reported that, along with increased wellness,
they feel empowered by taking proactive responsibility for their
Molly Linton,N.D., a naturopathic doctor in private practice
in Seattle, has treated more than 500 women using the protocol
developed by Dr. Bastyr. “Of the 500 women, only four have
not had success. Two were so depleted that their immune systems
just couldn't kick in, another just could’t give up coffee,
and another was traveling from out of state to get treatment and
that was actually adding to her stress. But all the rest of my
patients had their Pap smears return to normal.” Dr. Linton
also concurs with Dr. Hudson regarding the lower rate of recurrence.
“In my practice I have had no recurrence within five years
post treatment. We have had no return abnormal Paps. My patients
have changed their lifestyles and their immune systems have kicked
Drumheller adds,”One has to follow the treatment protocol
and commit to doing it. It is not for someone who doesn't want
to take responsibility. It takes a personal commitment to treat
the root of the problem.” But with her own dedication and
some help from her naturopathic doctor, Drumheller took control
of her health and solved a potentially serious problem using natural
Lifestyle Choices to Support a Healthy Cervix (from Drs. Hudson
- Practice safe sex. Using condoms helps
to prevent the transmission of HPV, a contributing factor
in 90 percent of cervical dysplasia cases.
- Drink up! Try to drink at least one third
of your body weight in ounces of pure water each day. Keep
in mind that you need even more water if you are lactating
or live in a dry climate.
- Eat your protein. Protein is a major building
block for the immune system and healthy tissue.
- Go organic. Organic fruits and vegetables
contain carotenoid and flavonoid compounds that support a
healthy immune system. Organic is preferable since pesticides,
fertilizers, and herbicides may be carcinogenic and may alter
the body’s hormonal balance.
- Sleep. Sleep is the body’s time to
rest and repair and is important for a healthy immune system
- Get up and go! Exercise aids promoting
healthy circulation, oxygenation of tissues, and detoxification.
- Take your vitamins. A good multivitamin
adds important nutrients that may be missing in the diet and
can counteract the effects of stress on the body.
- Get an annual Pap smear. Most doctors agree
that women should have an annual physical and Pap smear to
catch any potential problems early.
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