- Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?
- Finding cervical pre-cancers
- Things to do to prevent pre-cancers and cancers
- Signs & Symptoms
- Food Factors
- Key Supplements
- Things That Increase Your Risk …
- Things That Lower Your Risk …
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): Why Clinical Nutrition is Imperative
- Symptoms of HPV
- What to do about HPV?
- GET EDUCATED: How to Reduce your Risk of HPV Infections
- GET HEALTHY: Nutrients Researched for HPV Infections and Immunity
- Dr. Millie’s Plan
- How You Can Use Your Diet to Help Fight HPV Infections
- How to Naturally Treat HPV in Women
- What is Human Papillomavirus
- HPV Symptoms
- HPV in Women
- How do you know if you have HPV?
- How do you get HPV?
- Pap Tests
- HPV Pap Smear
- HPV Vaccines
- Can you get rid of HPV?
- HPV Supplements
- Treatment for HPV
- Cervical Cancer Prevention and Your Diet
- 5 Foods That Fight Cervical Cancer
- 6 foods that lower women’s cancer risk
- Treatment overview
- Radiation therapy
- Therapies using medication
- Physical, emotional, and social effects of cancer
- Treatment options by stage
- Remission and the chance of recurrence
- If treatment does not work
- Related posts:
Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?
The two most important things you can do to prevent cervical cancer are to get the HPV vaccine if you are eligible, and to be tested according to American Cancer Society guidelines. These can be found in The American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Prevention and Early Detection of Cervical Cancer.
The most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes and there are ways to stop this from developing. The first way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become invasive cancers, and the second is to prevent the pre-cancers.
Finding cervical pre-cancers
A well-proven way to prevent cervical cancer is to have screening tests. Screening is having tests to find conditions that may lead to cancers and can find pre-cancers before they can turn into invasive cancer. The Pap test (or Pap smear) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test are specific tests used during screening for cervical cancer. If a pre-cancer is found it can be treated, keeping it from turning into a cervical cancer.
The Pap test or smear is a procedure used to collect cells from the cervix so that they can be looked at closely in the lab to find cancer and pre-cancer. It’s important to know that most invasive cervical cancers are found in women who have not had regular Pap tests. A Pap test can be done during a pelvic exam, but not all pelvic exams include a Pap test.
An HPV test can be done on the same sample of cells collected during the Pap test. The HPV test checks if there is an HPV infection which is one condition that can lead to pre-cancers.
Things to do to prevent pre-cancers and cancers
Based on your age, overall health, and personal risk for cervical cancer, there are some things that can be done that may prevent pre-cancers and conditions that lead to pre-cancers.
Get a HPV vaccine
Vaccines are available that can protect young people against certain HPV infections. These vaccines protect against infection with the HPV subtypes most commonly linked to cancer, as well as some types that can cause anal and genital warts.
These vaccines only work to prevent HPV infection − they will not treat an infection that is already there. That is why, to be most effective, the HPV vaccines should be given before a person becomes exposed to HPV (such as through sexual activity).
These vaccines help prevent pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. Some HPV vaccines are also approved to help prevent other types of cancers and anal and genital warts.
The vaccines require a series of injections (shots). Side effects are usually mild. The most common one is short-term redness, swelling, and soreness at the injection site. Rarely, a young person might faint shortly after the injection.
The CDC recommends:
- The HPV vaccination start at ages 11 or 12 years (or can be given early as age 9 years).
- If not vaccinated already, everyone can get the vaccine through age 26 years. It’s important to know that vaccination at older ages is less effective in lowering cancer risk.
- Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their health care provider about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit.
It’s important to know that no vaccine provides complete protection against all cancer-causing types of HPV, so routine cervical cancer screening is still needed.
For more information on the vaccine and HPV, please see HPV Vaccines.
Limit exposure to HPV
HPV is passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact with an infected area of the body. Although HPV can be spread during skin to skin contact − including vaginal, anal, and oral sex − sex doesn’t have to occur for the infection to spread. All that is needed is skin-to-skin contact with an area of the body infected with HPV. This means that the virus can be spread without sex. It is even possible for a genital infection to spread through hand-to-genital contact.
Also, HPV infection seems to be able to spread from one part of the body to another. This means that an infection may start in the cervix and then spread to the vagina and vulva.
It can be very hard not to be exposed to HPV. It may be possible to prevent HPV infection by not allowing others to have contact with your anal or genital area, but even then there might be other ways to become infected that aren’t yet clear.
Limiting the number of sex partners and avoiding sex with people who have had many other sex partners may lower your risk of exposure to HPV. But again, HPV is very common, so having sexual activity with even one other person can put you at risk. Remember that someone can have HPV for years and still have no symptoms. So it’s possible someone can have the virus and pass it on without knowing it.
Use a condom
Condoms (“rubbers”) provide some protection against HPV but they don’t completely prevent infection. One reason that condoms cannot protect completely is because they don’t cover every possible HPV-infected area of the body, such as skin of the genital or anal area. Still, condoms provide some protection against HPV, and they also help protect against HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections.
Not smoking is another important way to reduce the risk of cervical pre-cancer and cancer.
Cervical dysplasia refers to pre-cancerous changes in the cells on the surface of the cervix. If left untreated, cervical dysplasia can progress into cervical cancer-the second-most-common cancer in women ages 20 to 39. However, Pap tests have greatly increased the ability to identify cervical dysplasia before this change occurs. Cervical cancer is also one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among women in the developing world due to limited access to health care such as Pap tests.
The majority of cervical dysplasia cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV); however, not all women with the virus will develop cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. There are more than 100 HPV subtypes that have been identified and categorized, more than 30 of which can infect the genital area.
Signs & Symptoms
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy or have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been found to be protective against cervical cancer and dysplasia. Foods high in vitamin C, selenium, carotenoids, and vitamin E should be included as part of every woman’s diet.
Studies have shown a connection between folate deficiency and an increased risk of cervical dysplasia. In two separate double-blind trials and one uncontrolled trial, doses of 5-10 mg per day for one to three months were found to be effective for cervical dysplasia in women taking oral contraceptives.
Dosage: 2-10 mg daily for treatment, or 1-3 mg for prevention.
Editor’s pick: Life Extension High Potency Optimized Folate
Vitamin C exerts both anticancer and antiviral effects. It’s also involved in collagen synthesis and helps to detoxify potential carcinogens.
Dosage: 1,000-5,000 mg daily to bowel tolerance.
Editor’s pick: American Health Ester-C 1000 mg with Citrus Bioflavonoids
Vitamins B12, B6, and folate help to decrease homocysteine levels. When elevated, homocysteine has been associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Methylcobalamin is the preferred form of B12 because it is utilized more efficiently in the body.
Dosage: 1,000 mcg daily.
Editor’s pick: Emerald Laboratories B-Healthy
Studies of cervical dysplasia and carotenoids indicate that low concentrations of selected serum carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and beta cryptoxanthin) are associated with an increased risk of cervical dysplasia.
Dosage: 75,000 IUs of mixed natural carotenoids twice daily for treatment, or 25,000-50,000 IUs for prevention.
Editor’s pick: Nature’s Life Mixed Carotenoids
Flaxseed and/or Pure Fish Oil:
Essential fatty acids, in the form of flaxseed or uncontaminated fish oil, decrease the formation of PGE2, a type of prostaglandin that acts as a messenger molecule to promote inflammatory pathways in the body. Some prostaglandins can actually inhibit cancer growth and support healthy immune function, while other prostaglandins promote cancer. Omega-3s (found in fish oil and flax oil) support the “healthy” prostaglandin pathways, preventing disease and abnormal cell growth.
Dosage: Take up to 2 Tbs. of flax oil daily and/or up to 3,000 mg fish oil daily with a minimum of 1,000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA.
Editor’s pick: Nordic Naturals Omega Woman
Vitamin E-Mixed Tocopherols:
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of all stages of cervical dysplasia. Supplementing with vitamin E to raise serum levels is associated with a decreased risk. Vitamin E also promotes tissue healing.
Dosage: 400-800 IU daily.
Editor’s pick: Carlson Labs E•Gems Elite
Selenium is another important antioxidant that protects against many cancers, including cervical cancer. It is an important mineral for activating optimal immune functioning. L-selenomethionine is more bioavailable and more easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
Dosage: 200-400 mcg daily.
Editor’s pick: Solgar Yeast-Free Selenium 200 MCG L-Selenomethionine
This is another important immunity-building mineral. It also helps heal tissue.
Dosage: 30 mg daily.
Editor’s pick: Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Zinc
Probiotics-Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp.:
Probiotics are known to have an important role in the maintenance of normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also essential for the detoxification of excess estrogens from the body through the bowel along with dietary fiber. Probiotics also support optimal immune function, as 70 percent of our immune cells reside in the gut.
Dosage: at least 10 billion CFU daily with food.
Editor’s pick: NOW Foods Women’s Probiotic 20 Billion
Green tea extract:
This has been shown to prevent and/or treat HPV-related lesions. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) inhibits cervical cell proliferation and induces cell death (apoptosis) for cancer cells. It therefore possesses antitumor effects.
Dosage: 300 mg daily.
Editor’s pick: Country Life Green Tea Extract
This chemical compound is found in cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. I3C has been shown to prevent abnormal cell growth and tumor progression. 13C increases the protective 2-hydroxyestrone without increasing the other harmful estrogens.
Dosage: 300 mg daily.
Editor’s pick: Natural Factors EstroSense
Things That Increase Your Risk …
- Becoming sexually active before age 18
- Having multiple sexual partners or being sexually active with a man who has multiple sexual partners
- Giving birth before age 22
- Compromised immune system
- Low socioeconomic status
- Family history of cervical cancer
- Oral contraceptives
- Poor nutrition
- Chlamydia infection, herpes simplex virus, or HIV
Things That Lower Your Risk …
- Getting routine Pap tests, at least every three to five years for a normal Pap and every three to six months for an abnormal Pap
- Quitting smoking
- Minimizing alcohol consumption
- Using alternative forms of birth control rather than oral contraceptives (e.g., barrier methods such as condoms)
- Supporting healthy liver function-do a liver cleanse one to two times per year
- Reducing stress through deep breathing exercises, yoga, and/or meditation
- Exercising (a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercise) at least 40-60 minutes per day, or at least three times per week
Mother’s Day Giveaway!
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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): Why Clinical Nutrition is Imperative
Written By Millie Lytle ND, MPH, CNS
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is ubiquitous. Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. An estimated 6.2 million people are newly infected every year1. More than 100 HPV types have been identified; over 40 of which can infect the genital area, causing warts, cellular abnormalities, and even cancer. HPV is not a single condition; instead, it is an umbrella term for a set of more than 100 types of strains. Of these strains, 40 are responsible for genital warts and viruses that can lead to cervical cancer. There are 4 strains responsible for cellular changes that could eventually cause cervical cancer (HPV 6 and 11, which are less harmful than the aggressive HPV 16 and 18). These same strains lead to anal, throat and mouth cancer in sexually active males and females.
Symptoms of HPV
Men are usually silent carriers, meaning they do not know they are spreading this pervasive sexually transmitted disease because they are free of symptoms and there no is no possible testing method. Most women will also never develop any symptoms because the HPV infection is usually self-limiting – this means that the body’s immune system fights the virus on its own. The Papanicolaou, or PAP test, is a necessary exam for females whereby the physician takes a cellular sample from the cervical tissue for cellular analysis to assess for cellular changes, called cervical atypical or cervical dysplasia. While spotting and pain during sexual intercourse are the most common symptoms, the PAP test is the only way to determine actual risk for cervical changes. Having routine PAP tests reduces a woman’s risk of developing a cancer related to the HPV infection. Diagnoses are staged for severity of cervical dysplasia (Cervical Intracellular Neoplasia 1, CIN2, CIN3 and cancers (Carcinoma in Situ, Invasive Cervical Carcinoma). But what determines if person develops a persistent HPV infection, or if it clears up on its own?
What to do about HPV?
Despite high vaccine effectiveness3, the prevalence of infections may be rising. Studies show that vaccine compliance is low, possibly due to lack of public trust on the safety of the vaccine (see incidence reports on deaths and adverse events here: http://www.nvic.org). Data from the American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2009-2010 found that the prevalence of HPV infections among women is 42.7% in the cervix, and 3.8% in the mouth and throat2. Women with oral HPV infections were 5 times more likely to have a cervical HPV infection as well, which means that HPV infections at these two sites are not independent2. Thus, overall body health and susceptibility, rather than exposure, might be the issue.
Education and Nutrition may be the missing link. Nutrition and lifestyle factors can play either a positive or detrimental role on an individual’s overall level of health. While there has been massive promotion of the HPV vaccine, the population’s health efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and diet have been minimal at best. A lack of health information on the risk factors of HPV and prevention and lifestyle strategies to treat it leave the public feeling confused and powerless about their options. While research is behind, there are many risk factors and interventions associated with lifestyle and nutrition that the public ought to be informed of so they know how to best prevent and treat their current situation.
GET EDUCATED: How to Reduce your Risk of HPV Infections
- Get tested. Getting examined by the doctor establishes your cervical health.
- Use protection. Unprotected intercourse increases risk for developing tissue abnormalities. While cervical cancer is unlikely with condom usage, genital warts can be contacted, as male and female condoms do not cover the entire area.
- Delay intercourse and be selective. Changing male partners (especially prior to 18 years of age) introduces the virus at a time when the body is still maturing, meaning the cells are most susceptible to viral influences.
- Delay childbirth. Giving birth prior to 22 years of age increases risk for cervical dysplasia due to cellular changes in the cervix.
- Stop smoking. Women who smoke have 2-3 times higher risk for developing cervical abnormalities due to decreased antioxidants and increased free radical damage that lower the immune system’s response to fight the virus. Results from a large prospective study confirmed that tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for the most severe types of cervical dysplasia (CIN3) as well as CIS, and even the more severe ICC4. Quitting smoking is required for recovery from HPV.
- Reconsider your Pill. Long-term use of oral contraceptives (over 5 years, as well as other medications such as Midol, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen) may be responsible for nutrient deficiencies of the crucial antioxidants (Folic Acid, Vitamin C and Zinc) needed to protect soft cervical tissues against conditions caused by HPV.
- Cut down on alcohol. Alcohol damages cells and leaches key nutrients from the body integral for immune health (B1, B12, Folic Acid and Zinc). A link has been established in women who consume two or more servings of alcoholic beverages per day with a persistent HPV infection of the mouth5.
- Fruits, veggies and supplements. Those who eat a poor nutrient diet, meaning insufficient servings of fruits and veggies, are missing key nutrients.
GET HEALTHY: Nutrients Researched for HPV Infections and Immunity
If you have been diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells or cervical dysplasia, rather than waiting to the next PAP test, why not consult one of InVite®’s Naturopathic Doctors or Nutritionists to improve antioxidant protection and boost your immune system? Nutritional programs may include food and supplement suggestions for increasing specific nutrients, as well as improving immunity so the body can fight the virus on its own:
- High nutrient intake. A diet rich with green, yellow, orange, red and cruciferous vegetables has been shown to be the best way to incorporate key nutrients into the diet. When specific antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, carotenoids and lycopene are low, HPV is harder to treat. What’s more, cabbage-family vegetables with natural levels of Indol-3-Carbinol and Sulforaphanes have great cancer-fighting abilities.
- Increase alkalinity and decrease acid. You can measure the acidity of your urine using a pH test strip. For more information on Alkalizing your diet, .
- Breathe in salt air and eat from the sea. Seafood contains essential minerals such as iodine, magnesium, calcium, boron, selenium and zinc, which are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, healthy thyroid function, metabolism, and electrolytes. If your whole body is healthier, delicate tissues like your cervix will respond positively.
- Exposure to the sunshine vitamin. Don’t forget Vitamin D is essential for normalizing immune response. The salt water mineral magnesium is required in order for Vitamin D to aid in proper calcium absorption.
- Leave junk food behind. Processed foods are high in sodium, refined sugar, processed white flour, and animal products with hormones and other bad fats, causing inflammation and robbing the body of essential nourishment.
In addition to the diet, there are several key nutrients that have been studied in relation to HPV, cervical dysplasia, and cervical cancer. While there is no guarantee you can recover naturally from cervical cancer, nutrition can be used alone or in combination with medical procedures to improve outcomes and protect one’s response to HPV exposure. Here is how to augment specific nutrition to give your immune system the best defense possible, inspired by the original protocol by Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, here is a 12-month plan to boost your immunity. Supplement levels will vary in each individual.
Dr. Millie’s Plan
Topical treatments are important as well. In addition to this vitamin protocol, there is a treatment option involving a rotating series of vaginal suppositories for women with moderate or severe cervical dysplasia. These suppositories would include a combination of antiviral, escharotics and therapeutic herbs, enzymes, and vitamins to treat and heal the local site. These suppositories are capable of killing the virus and healing the local area, and unlike the LEEP procedures, are non-scarring. Suppositories must be performed or taught by a trained alternative health professional.
Speak with a certified nutritionist or naturopathic doctor today! >>
- Surveillance Manual, 5th Edition, 2011 5 Human Papillomavirus: Chapter 5-1
- Steinau M, Hariri S, Gillison ML, Broutian TR, Dunne EF, Tong ZY, Markowitz LE, Unger ER. Prevalence of Cervical and Oral Human Papillomavirus Infections Among US Women. J Infect Dis. 2014 Jun;209(11):1739-43.
- Markowitz LE, Hariri S, Lin C, Dunne EF, Steinau M, McQuillan G, Unger ER. Reduction in human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence among young women following HPV vaccine introduction in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2003-2010. J Infect Dis. 2013 Aug 1;208(3):385-93.
- Roura E, Castellsagué X, Pawlita M, Travier N, Waterboer T, Margall N, et al. Smoking as a major risk factor for cervical cancer and pre-cancer: Results from the EPIC cohort. Int J Cancer. 2014 Jul 15;135(2):453-66.
- Chaturvedi AK, Graubard BI, Pickard RK, Xiao W, Gillison ML. High-Risk Oral Human Papillomavirus Load in the US Population, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2010. JInfect Dis. 2014 May 2.
- Weinstein SJ et al. Low serum and red blood cell folate are moderately but not significantly associated with increased risk of invasive cervical cancer. / NUlr. 2001; 131:2040-2048.
- Schiff MA et al. Serum carotinoids and risk of cervical epithelial neoplasia in southwestern American women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev2001; 10: 1219-1222.
- Piyathilake Cj et al. Lower risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia in women with high plasma folate and sufficient vitamin B12 in the post-folic acid fortification era. Cancer Prev Res. 2009; 2(7): 658-664.
- Piyathilake Cj et al. Lower red blood cell folate enhances the HPV-16-associated risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Nutrition. 2007
- Marshall K. Cervical dysplasia: early intervention. Altern Med Rev. 2003; 8(2):156-170.
- Grubbs Cj, Steele VE, Casebolt T et al. Chemoprevention of chemically-induced mammary carcinogenesis by indole-3-carbinol. Anticancer Res. 1995; 15: 709-716.
- Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, Bradlow HL, et al. Placebo controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of GIN. Gynecol Oncol. 2000
- Palan PR, Mikhail MS, Basu J, Romney SL. Plasma levels of antioxidant beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol in uterine cervix dysplasias and cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1991;15:1320.
- Mikhail MS, Palan PR, Romney SL. Coenzyme Q10 and alpha tocopherol concentrations in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and cervix cancer. Obstet Gynecol. 2001;97:3S.
- Hudson, Tory. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Keats Publishing; 1999,
- Ghosh C et al. Dietary intakes of selected nutrients and food groups and risk of cervical cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2008; 60(3);331-241.
- Lee GJ, et aL Antioxidant vitamins and lipid peroxidation in patients with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Journal Korean Med Sci. 2005 Apr
- Ahn WS et al. The protective effects of green tea extract on human cervical lesions. European Journal Cancer Prevention; 2003; 12(5);383-390
- Bogdanova J. Coriolus versicolor – innovation in prevention of oncogynecological diseases, especially HPV. [In Bulgarian.) Akush Ginekol (Soliia). 2008;47 SuppI3:51-53.
- Silva Couto J, Pereira da Silva D. Coriolus versicolor supplementation as immunonutrition in HPV patients with cervical lesions. Clin J Mycol. July 2009;3(1):8.
- García-Zepeda SP, García-Villa E, Díaz-Chávez J, Hernández-Pando R, Gariglio P. Resveratrol induces cell death in cervical cancer cells through apoptosis and autophagy. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Nov;22(6):577-84.
- Hudson, Tory. Consecutive case study research of carcinoma in situ of cervix employing local escharotic treatment combined with nutritional therapy. Journal of Naturopathic Med. 1991.
How You Can Use Your Diet to Help Fight HPV Infections
Sex education teaches us all about how sexually transmitted infections are passed on through physical intimacy with others. If your sex ed course was comprehensive, you may have been taught how to identify early symptoms of sexually transmitted infections—bumps, itching, warts, painful urination; the unsettling list continues. But how do you detect a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that has hundreds of virus strains, can spread through skin-to-skin contact, and has little to no symptoms during its invasion of the human body?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) as the most common sexually transmitted infection. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than half of sexually active people are infected with one or more HPV types at some point in their lives. The human papillomaviruses are a group of more than 150 related viruses, and more than 40 of these viruses can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
The real risk of this vexatious virus is that it can increase the chance of developing certain cancers, with a woman’s cervix being most vulnerable. In particular, high-risk HPV strains 16 and 18 cause about 70% of all cervical cancers. While women can monitor HPV and prevent the risk of cervical cancer through regular pap smears, it’s highly recommended that abnormal cells are treated to prevent cervical cancer. The risk of cervical cancer by way of HPV has led to the development of two vaccines owned by Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline.
Cervarix (GSK) and Gardasil (Merk & Co.) aim to prevent young women from developing cervical cancer. Gardasil is said to protect against genital warts and cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva. The two vaccines are available to women, but only Gardasil is available to men. It’s recommended that girls as young as nine years old complete the series of vaccinations. Girls aged 11-26 are also highly encouraged by schools and medical professionals to get vaccinated.
While deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly in the last four decades due to regular pap tests, women are still diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States. According to the CDC, reports from 2010 show that over 11,000 American women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and nearly 4,000 died from cervical cancer. The good news is that there are medical and naturopathic treatments which reduce and in some instances have been known to treat HPV and cervical dysplasia.
In the last decade, more and more people are looking to alternative health news and naturo/homeopathic treatments to clear HPV and prevent cervical cancer in women. The World Health Organization reports that HPV infections typically clear without any medical intervention within a few months, and approximately 90% clear within two years. Because HPV tends to clear on its own in about two years time, it’s important to maintain a strong and healthy immune system to support HPV’s natural elimination from the body. When choosing to augment your body in clearing the infection, food and environmental lifestyle changes are integral to the recovery process. For some, these changes can be radical consumer shifts. For others, the alternative treatment may not be such a shock to your lifestyle.
Because HPV is astoundingly prevalent in both women and men, naturopathic doctors have developed a regimen that bolsters your body’s natural healing of the virus. This natural form of treatment is certainly not for everyone, and those who are considering a naturopathic approach should consult their physician.
To help annihilate HPV, there are certain foods and consumer choices an individual must make. In particular, if you have high-risk HPV and abnormal cells changes to your cervix (CIN I, II, or III), your naturopathic treatment may be more intensive. Let’s begin with the foods that are most beneficial in expediting the healing process.
Diet and Nutrition
Cruciferous veggies produce a compound known as Indole-3-carbinol, or I3C. According to Linus Pauling Institute, research shows that women taking 200 to 400 milligrams of I3C per day over the course of 12 weeks completely regressed the progression of precancerous cervical lesions. Cruciferous vegetables include kale, mustard greens, horseradish, watercress, turnips, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Beta-carotene converted to Vitamin A when consumed empowers your body to clear HPV. It’s important to ensure you don’t have a beta-carotene deficiency as this may hinder your healing process. Vegetables rich in beta-carotene include carrots, squash, tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and lettuce.
Folic acid is especially useful in the treatment of mild cervical dysplasia (CIN I). One study shows that high folate blood levels are linked to the prevention of mild cervical dysplasia and high-risk HPV 16. Good sources of folate include legumes, fortified cereal, asparagus, eggs, oranges, and strawberries.
Vitamin C, the ultimate immune booster, will exponentially increase your chances of curing HPV in a timely manner. One study showed that women with high intake of vitamin C had a reduction in the risk of cervical dysplasia. Vitamin C can be found in yellow and red bell peppers, kale, kiwi, broccoli, berries, oranges, peas, and papaya.
Antioxidants can help cure various strains of HPV including ones that cause the development of warts. Because antioxidants fight free radicals, cancer-causing agents in your body, it’s vital that you consume foods high in antioxidants. Goods sources of antioxidants include artichokes, green tea, berries, peaches, and spinach.
It’s highly recommended that all foods are certified organic and non-GMO to ensure a safer, more nutritious diet.
Estrogen and Phytoestrogen
Because estrogen plays a role in HPV persistence, it’s best to steer away from foods high in estrogen. Phytoestrogens (dietary estrogens) has also shown to have a positive association in premalignant cervical lesions. Estrogenic and phytoestrogenic foods include soybeans, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, conventionally raised meats, and dairy products.
Consuming meat is not off the table during alternative treatment of HPV. However, when selecting meat products, it’s important to choose food items low in estrogenic quality, certified organic and grassfed, with no added hormones.
Vitamins and Antiviral Herbs
For those with busy schedules, vitamin intake and antiviral herbs is an alternative, or even complementary option. The recommended foods can also be taken as a supplemental vitamin regimen. Antiviral herbs to boost the immune system include Astragalus, Goldenseal Root, Coriolus Versicolor (Mushroom), and Olive Leaf.
Again, it’s suggested that the vitamins are non-GMO, suitable for vegetarians and certified organic. It’s best to do your research and consult a physician before consuming vitamins as part of your HPV and/or cervical dysplasia treatment plan.
Environment and Lifestyle
Given every body is different, decide which diet works best for you and what matches the severity of your HPV diagnosis. In conjunction with your diet plan, a few lifestyle and environmental changes are also recommended.
Reduce (if you can, remove) alcohol consumption
Limit or avoid the consumption of coffee (tea is great though!)
Practice yoga and meditation
Purchase non-toxic household products
Sleep eight hours every night (naps are great, too)
The medical alternative to treating high-risk HPV and cervical dysplasia is the surgical removal of abnormal cells and the HPV vaccine. There are four main types of medical procedures which include the surgical removal of abnormal tissue from the cervix: Laser Therapy, Cryocauterization, Laser Loop Electrosurgical Excision (LEEP), and Cervical Conization. These surgical procedures are known to have a 70-99% cure rate. Some women have reported complications with these treatments, specifically with the most preferred treatment, the LEEP procedure. Common complications include vaginal draining, pain, bleeding, and infection.
Keep in mind that HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection out there, yet it’s not life threatening when treated responsibly. With many options available, both medical and naturopathic, you can prepare your body to eliminate HPV once and for all.
How to Naturally Treat HPV in Women
Roughly 80% of sexually active women will have human papillomavirus, or HPV, in their lifetime, and most may never know it. But if left undetected, it can lead to HPV type cancers. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States.
What is Human Papillomavirus
There are over 140 types of HPV viruses. Each HPV virus is given a number which is called its HPV type. At least 40 HPV types can cause warts or lesions that appear on your genitals or anus. However, most HPV types are HPV-related cancers.
In women, HPV infection can lead to cervical, vaginal, and vulvar type cancers. But there are vaccines which are explained later in this article, that can prevent infection with HPV types that most commonly cause cancer, if you choose to do this.
Many people who have HPV don’t even know it. That is because most HPV infections have no symptoms that can be seen or felt. HPV is transmitted through intimate contact with an infected person even if they are not showing any signs or symptoms. You can develop HPV symptoms years after having sexual contact with an infected person. This can make it difficult to know which sexual partner gave you HPV, but you can look for signs of possible infection.
HPV in Women
Most of the time, the infection resolves on its own and the signs of HPV in women may not be apparent or cause any health problems. However, when the infection is not cleared by the immune system, it may not go away. HPV in women may lead to health problems such as warts or cancer with some common signs.
Genital Warts (infection with low-risk viruses):
- Wart eruptions appear on the mucosal membranes covering the lining of the vulva, vagina, anus or groin
- The tissues will show small bumps or clusters of bumps
- Warts range in size and appearance, may be raised or flat, “cauliflower” shaped, and white or fleshed tone
- Itching, burning or pain irritation may appear at the location of the warts or lesions
HPV Cancers (infection with high-risk viruses):
- Cervical cancer (more common)
- Cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus or groin
- Cancer in the back of the throat, the base of the tongue or tonsils (less common)
Generally, women are less likely to have oral infection when compared to men.
Dealing with HPV is medically challenging enough but it can also take an emotional toll on relationships. The better educated you are, the easier it is to communicate clearly what your current or future sex partner needs to know.
How do you know if you have HPV?
Most women with HPV have no signs of infection and many women never know they had an infection. But HPV often causes genital warts and abnormal growths on the cervix that can be cervical cancer markers. The only way to really know if you have HPV is to be tested.
And it is important to note that HPV is not caused by vaginal yeast infections, but you can have both at some point so again, testing is important to make a determination.
Yeast infections are mostly all caused by Candida yeast cells and while super uncomfortable, do not have the same serious risks as HPV.
How do you get HPV?
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact. Women get HPV from sexual contact with someone who has it and it can be spread by vaginal, anal, oral or hand/genital sexual contact. Someone who is infected but has no visible signs can still spread HPV to others. You can be infected with more than one type of HPV and long-term sexual partners with HPV often have the same HPV types. The widespread statistics show that sexually active men and women will likely get genital HPV at some time in their lives.
Sometimes, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing genital or respiratory system infections.
The risks of genital HPV infections are increased by:
- becoming sexually active at a young age
- having multiple sex partners
- having a medical condition that lowers immunity like cancer or HIV/AIDS
- risk can also be higher in those taking medication that weakens the immune system
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For many women, the most significant part of their annual physical is the “pap smear” which is the longest-running cancer screening done in the US.
Pap smears are done by collecting a cell sample from the cervix with a small brush to screen for cervical cancer and changes in the cervix that might turn into cancer. This sample can also be a way of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix caused by HPV.
It is important to note that not all abnormal pap smears mean you have cervical cancer. Only a small number of women who have one of the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer will ever actually develop the disease.
HPV Pap Smear
HPV tests are usually done to check DNA for a high-risk HPV infection in women. Like a Pap test, the test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix. There are many types of HPV, but high-risk ones left untreated can progress to serious abnormalities and may lead to cervical cancer over time.
There are three vaccines approved to protect against the spread of certain types of HPV viruses:
- Gardasil 9
The HPV vaccine called Gardasil was introduced in 2007 and is licensed by the FDA and approved by the CDC. The vaccine protects against two strains of the human papillomavirus, type 6 & 11. These two strain types are known to cause 90 percent of genital warts cases. Gardasil 9 protects against four types of infection, type 6, 11, 16, 18 and protects against five other high-risk types, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 and several other cancer-causing HPV types.
While the data is promising there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the use of these vaccines because essentially it does not treat HPV, nor does it protect against all strains of the disease. And as with most conventional allopathic medications, some side effects are possible including dizziness, headaches, and fainting.
Even more controversial is that these vaccines which are recommended by numerous organizations including The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advocate they be given to children between the ages of 11 and 14. While the intention of it is to protect children before they become sexually active, some parents feel this is too early to vaccinate a child for an STD and could also encourage teens to be more sexually promiscuous.
Bottom line is anyone between the ages of 11 and 26 is eligible to receive the vaccine but weighing the pros and cons and doing more research for your individual situations is obviously prudent.
In addition, Cervarix is a vaccine against certain types of HPV that cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. These vaccinations should not be considered a substitute for regular screenings.
Unfortunately, none of these vaccines can prevent the spread of other STD sexually transmitted diseases. Nor do they treat existing viral diseases or infections.
Can you get rid of HPV?
There’s no cure for HPV, but there are plenty of things you can do to stay healthy and safe from risks. Boosting the immune system is one of the best ways to help get HPV under control.
Eating a diet rich in natural folic acid, high antioxidants and probiotics can help support the immune system. These foods include:
- citrus fruits
- green leafy vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
- peanut butter
- pumpkin seeds
- kombucha and kvass
- fermented vegetables
Raw is best and remember that soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds enhances their digestibility and allows greater absorption of nutritional content.
Studies show that natural folic acid has been found to reduce the severity of the infection and aid the cells in stopping viral replication. All women can support their own systems by simply adding adequate amounts of folate in the diet or choose a supplemental form of natural, NOT synthetic folate. I recommend L-5-MTHF™, Super Liquid Folate ™ or Ultra B12-Folate™.
In addition, the use of indole–3 carbinol (I3C), and/or DIM found in DIM-Evail™ and BroccoProtect™ can help keep the immune system healthy, minimize cellular changes, and promote healing.
Studies have shown that an amino acid called L-Lysine has the ability to inhibit the spread of many types of viruses. Clinical studies report the effectiveness of using lysine for either genital or common warts. Taking L-Lysine supplements helps to prevent herpes breakout but taking too little won’t help much. It was found that taking 1000-1200 mg of L-Lysine a day did reduce the frequency of breakouts and sped up the recovery. When the virus is under control taking a smaller dose of 500 mg may be sufficient to prevent frequent reoccurrence and for tissue repair.
Still under investigation is the use of Carrageenan, a compound which is derived from seaweed used in foods and products. It is believed that this compound inhibits the spread of the virus from oral infection. A product called PeriBiotic™ Toothpaste in spearmint or fennel flavor includes this compound. This toothpaste also contains a specific Lactobacillus strain that combats unhealthy strains of oral bacteria necessary for oral health.
Studies have shown that curcumin was helpful in managing HPV related tumors and has anticancer properties that downregulate tumor cell growth. Research has also shown that curcumin can be effective for cervical cancer prevention and treatment by helping to clear cervical HPV infection. I often recommend Curcum-Evail because it is well studied and a powerful supplement with extensive health benefits.
Treatment for HPV
There are no natural, home remedies, or other treatments that can cure genital warts or the HPV virus. Even removal of the warts does not prevent the recurrence of the virus.
However, there are things you can do to help your body clear the virus and lower your chances of it persisting and turning into cancer.
It is also a good idea to check these off your list of things to change to support your body:
Boost Your Immune System:
- Reduce stress levels: chronic stress has been proven to change blood flow to cervical tissue and affect its secretions
- Develop a clean lifestyle with less alcohol and smoking
- Participate in some form of regular exercise
As an added safeguard woman can take these important precautions:
- Avoid sex with anyone with visible signs of genital warts
- Get checked if you suspect any transmission with an infected person
- Sexually active women should practice safe sex with the use of condoms
- Have sex only with a partner who is monogamous
- Get regular screenings and Pap tests for early detection of cervical cancer and precancerous changes in the cervix
- Get checked immediately if you experience a persistent sore throat, mouth sores or painful swallowing that won’t go away
- Young women can get vaccinated against cervical cancer if they chose it is right for them
Finding out you have HPV can be confusing and often emotionally overwhelming, especially if you don’t have all the facts. CONTACT ME today and let’s look at some of the questions and answers most common about HPV.
Cervical Cancer Prevention and Your Diet
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help protect you from developing cervical cancer. How? Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Experts believe that a diet high in the antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and folate found in fruits and vegetables can help the body fight HPV infection and prevent HPV infection from turning cells of the cervix into cancerous lesions.
A study published in the journal Cancer Research found that women whose blood tests showed high levels of certain chemical compounds — indicating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables — were able to clear their HPV infections faster than their peers, which could help reduce the risk of cancer.
Fighting Cervical Cancer With Diet
“Lots of research points to great benefits associated with diet and cancer. Eating mostly a plant-based diet — one that is made up primarily of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains — is the best,” says Susan Moores, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
You can find ways to include these foods in your diet throughout the day. Moores recommends adding a variety of colors to your diet and including nutritious foods with attributes that fight cervical cancer at all three meals. For example:
- Breakfast: orange juice, cantaloupe, yogurt, and granola
- Lunch: open-faced toasted cheese and veggie sandwich with red peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini
- Dinner: tossed romaine salad with grapefruit segments and whole-wheat pasta with spinach, black beans, chicken, and diced tomatoes
Flavonoids to Reduce Cervical Cancer Risk
Flavonoids are chemical compounds in fruits and vegetables that are thought to be a leading source protection against cancer. The following are just a few examples of flavonoid-rich foods to consider adding to your diet:
- Black beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Lima beans
Folate as a Cervical Cancer Risk Reducer
Studies suggest that foods rich in folate (a water-soluble B vitamin) reduce the risk of cervical cancer in people with HPV. However, researchers do not yet know how folate might affect cancer risk. It is possible that folate helps the body stop HPV infection from coming back repeatedly, which decreases the risk of developing cancer.
Foods rich in folate include:
- Fortified cereals and breads
- Orange juice
- Romaine lettuce
Carotenoids in the Cervical Cancer Diet
Some studies suggest that carotenoids, a source of vitamin A, are also helpful in preventing cervical cancer risk. In addition to the fruits, vegetables, and beans on the lists above, you could also include orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash in your diet.
Cervical Cancer: Diet Is Only Part of the Solution
However, a diet high in fruits and vegetables — although an important part of an overall cancer prevention plan — cannot prevent cervical cancer by itself.
“Cervical cancer is primarily a lifestyle cancer,” says gynecologist Rachel Reitan, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Tulane University School of Medicine. Reitan says she has not seen any research that convinces her that a dietary change is enough to prevent cancer. “Even vegetarians develop cervical cancer,” she says.
A healthy lifestyle that can help reduce your chances of developing cervical cancer should also include:
- Getting annual Pap smears to screen for early cell changes
- Getting vaccinated against HPV
- Not smoking
- Being monogamous (the risk of HPV increases with more than one sex partner)
Taking these steps and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you keep your cervical cancer risk low.
- See All Cervical Cancer Articles
- See All Cervical Cancer Q&As
5 Foods That Fight Cervical Cancer
By Brandi Goodman
With January deemed Cervical Cancer Awareness month, it’s important to take a look at just how women everywhere can fight against it the other 11 months as well. A healthy diet and adequate water intake is the best place to start. At least five foods exist that work to fight cervical cancer and reduce symptoms due to the antioxidant properties and many nutrients they provide.
Many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene. This antioxidant can prevent and treat several variations of cancer, including cervical. Sweet potatoes are one of the greatest sources of beta-carotene that are worth adding to your diet. They are much healthier than regular potatoes and can be enjoyed baked or mashed. It’s important to consume the outer skin portion as well. Many of the nutrients are found there.
Dark leafy greens offer folic acid. Folic acid helps in the building of new cells. These new cells can help to push out the damaged, toxic cells that are causing the cervical cancer and other diseases within the body. Spinach is an ideal source of other vitamins as well, such as Vitamin E. This vitamin works toward improving healthy cell function.
Carrots contain lots of nutrients that aid in the fight against diseases. The antioxidants found in this vegetable are especially helpful in the battle against cervical cancer because they target the human papilloma virus. HPV is a common cause of cervical cancer. Having a diet rich in foods that target this disease is a major hep.
Apples provide a hefty dose of Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant that can fight off disease within the body. Many people up their Vitamin C intake when they have a common cold, not realizing that the nutritional value from it can help other ailments as well, including cervical cancer. An apple a day keeping the doctor away is a valid saying because of this.
Protein is necessary to heal the body and repair damaged tissues. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, making them vital to eat during a battle with cancer of any kind. Lean meats and low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, are also vital.
Cervical cancer, or any form of cancer for that matter, can be fought. A healthy diet is going to work wonders in combating symptoms and reducing the size of the toxic cells within the body. Combine this with exercise, regular check-ups with a doctor, and even chiropractic care that can help reduce stress levels and boost the immune system, and you are on the right track toward improving overall well-being.
Be sure to complement your doctor’s care with food that can give you the best chance of beating cervical cancer.
To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Arnold, Mo.
6 foods that lower women’s cancer risk
Looking for that one food that will keep you cancer-free? Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. But certain foods can help reduce your chances of developing cancer – especially when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Erma Levy, research dietitian in Behavioral Science at MD Anderson, shares her list of foods that women should include in their diet to lower their cancer risks. “But that doesn’t mean you should eat these foods and nothing else,” Levy says.
She recommends a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (like beans or lentils) to give your body the range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs. Eating a variety of healthy foods also helps prevent weight gain and can lower body fat.
“Excess body weight increases the amount of hormones in your body,” Levy says. “And when those extra hormones go unused, they can promote cancer cell growth, increasing a women’s risk of breast and uterine cancers.”
Here are six foods you should include in a healthy diet.
Lentils are small beans rich in dietary fiber. Fiber may reduce your chances of colorectal cancer. “Fiber helps your gut produce chemicals that may stop tumor cells from forming,” Levy says.
Fiber also keeps you full longer, helping you maintain a healthy weight. And, it can help lower cholesterol as part of a low-fat diet, as well as blood sugar levels. Other great fiber sources are beans, whole-wheat pasta, barley and brown rice.
Garlic is loaded with manganese, vitamins B6 and C, and selenium. Some research suggests these nutrients can fend off the cancer cell growth in your intestines. The pungent vegetable, great as a seasoning, also may help lower your risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.
Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They’re bursting with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that reduce your risks of many different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Eating lots of leafy greens also can help you maintain a lean body weight and reduce your chances for heart disease and diabetes.
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a natural chemical found in plants. This chemical is a powerful antioxidant that may lower breast, lung and stomach cancer risks. Other fruits with lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit and most fruits with red flesh.
Grapes are sweet and juicy berries that contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which may block the formation of breast, liver, stomach and lymphatic system cancers. A grape’s skin has the most resveratrol, so leave the skin intact. Red and purple grapes have more resveratrol than green grapes.
Onions contain an antioxidant called quercetin. “It may help fight cancer by lowering inflammation in your body,” Levy says. Some studies show yellow onions and shallots may be particularly good at protecting you from liver and colon cancers.
Eat a healthy variety
“Including these foods in your diet , along with other fruits, vegetables and whole grains, is a great way to help reduce your risk of some cancers,” Levy says. But don’t stop there.
Here are some more tips to maintain a healthy diet:
- Eat vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors
- Choose whole grains
- Include plant-based proteins
- Limit red meat
- Avoid processed meat
- Limit salt
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid sugary beverages and energy-dense foods
ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different types of treatments doctors use for people with cervical cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.
This section explains the types of treatments that are the standard of care for cervical cancer. “Standard of care” means the best treatments known. When making treatment plan decisions, you are encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study that tests a new approach to treatment. Doctors want to learn whether the new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials can test a new drug, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Clinical trials are an option to consider for treatment and care for all stages of cancer. Your doctor can help you consider all your treatment options. Learn more about clinical trials in the About Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections of this guide.
In cancer care, different types of doctors often work together to create a patient’s overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary team. Cancer care teams include a variety of other health care professionals, such as physician assistants, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, dietitians, and others.
Descriptions of the common types of treatments used for cervical cancer are listed below. Your care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care.
The treatment of cervical cancer depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the woman’s preferences and overall health. Take time to learn about all of your treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear. Talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment and what you can expect while receiving the treatment. These types of talks are called “shared decision making.” Shared decision making is when you and your doctors work together to choose treatments that fit the goals of your care. Shared decision making is particularly important for cervical cancer because there are different treatment options. Learn more about making treatment decisions.
Women with cervical cancer may have concerns about if or how their treatment may affect their sexual function and ability to have children, called fertility, and these topics should be discussed with the health care team before treatment begins. A woman who is pregnant should talk with her doctor about how treatments could affect both her and the unborn child. Treatment may be able to be delayed until after the baby is born.
Surgery is the removal of the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue during an operation. A gynecologic oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating gynecologic cancer using surgery. For cervical cancer that has not spread beyond the cervix, these procedures are often used:
Conization is the use of the same procedure as a cone biopsy (see Diagnosis) to remove all of the abnormal tissue. It can be used to remove cervical cancer that can only be seen with a microscope, called microinvasive cancer.
LEEP is the use of an electrical current passed through a thin wire hook. The hook removes the tissue. It can be used to remove microinvasive cervical cancer.
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and cervix. Hysterectomy can be either simple or radical. A simple hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and cervix. A radical hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus, cervix, upper vagina, and the tissue around the cervix. A radical hysterectomy also includes an extensive pelvic lymph node dissection, which means lymph nodes are removed. This procedure can be done using a large cut in the abdomen, called laparotomy, or smaller cuts, called laparoscopy.
If needed, surgery may include a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This is the removal of both fallopian tubes and both ovaries. It is done at the same time as a hysterectomy.
Radical trachelectomy is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is removed, but the uterus is left intact. It includes pelvic lymph node dissection (see above). This surgery may be used for young patients who want to preserve their fertility. This procedure has become an acceptable alternative to a hysterectomy for some patients.
For cervical cancer that has spread beyond the cervix, this procedure may be used:
Exenteration is the removal of the uterus, vagina, lower colon, rectum, or bladder if cervical cancer has spread to these organs after radiation therapy (see below). Exenteration is rarely required. It is most often used for some people whose cancer has come back after radiation treatment.
Complications or side effects from surgery vary depending on the extent of the procedure. Occasionally, patients experience significant bleeding, infection, or damage to the urinary and intestinal systems. Before surgery, talk with your health care team about the possible side effects from the specific surgery you will have.
Because these surgical procedures affect a woman’s sexual health, women should talk with their doctor about their symptoms and concerns in detail before the surgery. The doctor may be able to help reduce the side effects of surgery and provide support resources on coping with any changes. If extensive surgical procedures have affected sexual function, other surgical procedures can be used to make an artificial vagina.
Learn more about the basics of cancer surgery.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells. A doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer is called a radiation oncologist. Radiation therapy may be given alone, before surgery, or instead of surgery to shrink the tumor.
The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. When radiation treatment is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. A radiation therapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time that combines external and internal radiation treatments. This combined approach is the most effective to reduce the chances the cancer will come back, called a recurrence.
For early stages of cervical cancer, a combination of radiation therapy and low-dose chemotherapy is often used (see below). The goal of radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy is to increase the effectiveness of the radiation treatment. This combination is given to control the cancer in the pelvis with the goal of curing the cancer without surgery. It may also be given to destroy microscopic cancer that might remain after surgery.
Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach, and loose bowel movements. Side effects of internal radiation therapy may include abdominal pain and bowel obstruction, although it is uncommon. Most side effects usually go away soon after treatment is finished. After radiation therapy, the vaginal area may lose elasticity, so some women may also want to use a vaginal dilator, which is a plastic or rubber cylinder that is inserted into the vagina to prevent narrowing. Women who have received external-beam radiation therapy will lose the ability to become pregnant, and unless the ovaries have been surgically moved out of the pelvis, premenopausal women will enter menopause.
Sometimes, doctors advise their patients not to have sexual intercourse during radiation therapy. Women may resume normal sexual activity within a few weeks after treatment if they feel ready.
Learn more about the basics of radiation therapy or read the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s pamphlet, Radiation Therapy for Gynecologic Cancers (PDF; please note that this link takes you to a separate, external website).
Therapies using medication
Systemic therapy is the use of medication to destroy cancer cells. This type of medication is given through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Systemic therapies for cervical cancer are given by a gynecologic oncologist or medical oncologist, doctors who specialize in treating cancer with medication.
Common ways to give systemic therapies include an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle or in a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally).
The types of systemic therapies used for cervical cancer include:
Each of these types of therapies is discussed below in more detail. A person may receive 1 type of systemic therapy at a time or a combination of systemic therapies given at the same time. They can also be given as part of a treatment plan that includes surgery and/or radiation therapy.
The medications used to treat cancer are continually being evaluated. Talking with your doctor is often the best way to learn about the medications prescribed for you, their purpose, and their potential side effects or interactions with other medications. It is also important to let your doctor know if you are taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements. Herbs, supplements, and other drugs can interact with cancer medications. Learn more about your prescriptions by using searchable drug databases.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells.
A chemotherapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive 1 drug at a time or a combination of different drugs given at the same time. For women with cervical cancer, chemotherapy is often given in combination with radiation therapy (see above).
Although chemotherapy can be given orally (by mouth), all the drugs used to treat cervical cancer are given intravenously (IV). IV chemotherapy is either injected directly into a vein or given through a thin tube called a catheter, which is a tube temporarily put into a large vein to make injections easier.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the woman and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away after treatment is finished.
Rarely, specific drugs may cause some hearing loss. Others may cause kidney damage. Patients may be given extra fluid intravenously to protect their kidneys. Talk with your doctor about the possible short-term and long-term side effects based on the drugs and dosages you’ll be receiving.
Learn more about the basics of chemotherapy.
Targeted therapy (updated 07/2019)
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells.
Not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. This helps doctors better match each patient with the most effective treatment whenever possible. In addition, research studies continue to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them. Learn more about the basics of targeted treatments.
When cervical cancer has come back after treatment, called recurrent cancer, or if cervical cancer has spread beyond the pelvis, called metastatic disease, it is treated with a platinum-based chemotherapy combined with the targeted therapy bevacizumab (Avastin). There are 2 drugs similar to bevacizumab, bevacizumab-awwb (Mvasi) and bevacizumab-bvzr (Zirabev), that have been approved by the FDA to treat advanced cervical cancer. These are called biosimilars.
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.
The immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is used to treat cervical cancer that has recurred or spread to other parts of the body during or after treatment with chemotherapy. Some cancer cells express the PD-L1 protein, which binds to the PD-1 protein on T cells. T cells are immune system cells that kill certain cells, like cancer cells. When the PD-1 and PD-L1 proteins bind, the T cell does not attack the cancer cell. Pembrolizumab is a PD-1 inhibitor, so it blocks the binding between PD-1 and PD-L1, which allows the T cells to find and attack the cancer cells.
Different types of immunotherapy can cause different side effects. Common side effects include skin reactions, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, and weight changes. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects for the immunotherapy recommended for you. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy.
Cancer and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer.
Palliative care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive palliative care along with treatment for the cancer often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report they are more satisfied with treatment.
Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to get rid of the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy.
Before treatment begins, talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment in the treatment plan. You should also talk about the possible side effects of the specific treatment plan and palliative care options.
During treatment, your health care team may ask you to answer questions about your symptoms and side effects and to describe each problem. Be sure to tell the health care team if you are experiencing a problem. This helps the health care team treat any symptoms and side effects as quickly as possible. It can also help prevent more serious problems in the future.
Learn more about the importance of tracking side effects in another part of this guide. Learn more about palliative care in a separate section of this website.
Treatment options by stage
Radiation therapy alone or surgery is generally used for an early-stage tumor. These treatments have been shown to be equally effective at treating early-stage cervical cancer. Chemoradiation (a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy) is generally used for women with a larger tumor, an advanced-stage tumor found only in the pelvis, or if the lymph nodes have cancer cells. Commonly, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used after surgery if there is a high risk for the cancer coming back or if the cancer has spread.
Metastatic cervical cancer
If cancer spreads to another part in the body from where it started, doctors call it metastatic cancer. If this happens, it is a good idea to talk with doctors who have experience in treating it. Doctors can have different opinions about the best standard treatment plan. Clinical trials might also be an option. Learn more about getting a second opinion before starting treatment, so you are comfortable with your chosen treatment plan.
Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery may be used to treat or remove newly affected areas in both the pelvic area and other parts of the body. Palliative care will also be important to help relieve symptoms and side effects, especially with radiation therapy to relieve pain and other symptoms.
For most women, a diagnosis of metastatic cancer is very stressful and, at times, difficult to bear. You and your family are encouraged to talk about how you feel with doctors, nurses, social workers, or other members of the health care team. It may also be helpful to talk with other patients, including through a support group.
Remission and the chance of recurrence
A remission is when cancer cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called having “no evidence of disease” or NED.
A remission may be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty causes many people to worry that the cancer will come back. While many remissions are permanent, it is important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the cancer returning. An important part of follow-up care is watching for recurrence. Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the cancer does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence.
If the cancer returns after the original treatment, it is called recurrent cancer. Recurrent cancer may come back in the same place (called a local recurrence), nearby (regional recurrence), or in another place (distant recurrence).
When this occurs, a new cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence. After this testing is done, you and your doctor will talk about the treatment options. Often the treatment plan will include the treatments described above, such as surgery, systemic therapy, and radiation therapy, but they may be used in a different combination or given at a different pace. Your doctor may suggest clinical trials that are studying new ways to treat this type of recurrent cancer. Whichever treatment plan you choose, palliative care will be important for relieving symptoms and side effects.
Women with recurrent cancer often experience emotions such as disbelief or fear. You are encouraged to talk with the health care team about these feelings and ask about support services to help you cope. Learn more about dealing with cancer recurrence.
If treatment does not work
Recovery from cancer is not always possible. If the cancer cannot be cured or controlled, the disease may be called advanced or terminal.
This diagnosis is stressful, and for many people, advanced cancer is difficult to discuss. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team has special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families and is there to help. Making sure a person is physically comfortable, free from pain, and emotionally supported is extremely important.
Women who have advanced cancer and who are expected to live less than 6 months may want to consider hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. You and your family are encouraged to talk with the health care team about hospice care options, which include hospice care at home, a special hospice center, or other health care locations. Nursing care and special equipment can make staying at home a workable option for many families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning.
After the death of a loved one, many people need support to help them cope with the loss. Learn more about grief and loss.
The next section in this guide is About Clinical Trials. It offers more information about research studies that are focused on finding better ways to care for people with cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.