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Three years ago Bridgette*, a wife and mother to two young children, was shocked when a routine Pap smear identified abnormal cells. Bridgette was devastated when additional tests confirmed she had an HPV-related cancer.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted virus that infects 85 percent of sexually active people in their lifetime. For most people, the infection clears by itself, but that’s not always the case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For some, the virus can remain in the body, and could cause certain HPV-related cancers and diseases later in life, the CDC says. There is no way to predict who will or won’t clear the virus.
“I knew that HPV could potentially cause cancer. But I also thought it couldn’t happen to me.”
As a nurse who was used to caring for others, being a patient was a challenge for Bridgette. “It took a little bit of time for me to grasp all of it, where to buy generic nutridrine au without prescription ” she says.
Coming up with an action plan
Bridgette’s journey began with an abnormal Pap smear at a routine gynecologist visit. It continued with a biopsy that showed that she had stage one cervical cancer. Bridgette, who is now in her late 30s, was diagnosed at a much younger age than the average onset of HPV-related cervical cancer, which is around 49, according to the CDC. For some people who don’t clear the virus, a cervical cancer diagnosis may occur years or decades after they were infected, and individuals can be diagnosed with cervical cancer anywhere from their 20s through 80 years of age. For Bridgette, an HPV-related cancer diagnosis raised many questions, and it was hard to fathom her new reality. “I knew that HPV could potentially cause cancer,” she says, “but I also thought it couldn’t happen to me.”
“After we saw the gynecologic oncologist, it gave us hope because we were able to have a plan.”
Within a few weeks, she met with a gynecologic oncologist to work out a treatment plan, which included radiation and chemotherapy. When detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is about 90 percent.“After we saw the gynecologic oncologist, it gave us hope because we were able to have a plan and knew what we needed to do,” Bridgette says.
Bridgette’s treatment was successful, and she has been cancer free and thankful for the support of her family and care team on her road to recovery.
Lessons from her cancer journey
Bridgette acknowledges how important it is to have a strong support system while going through cancer treatment. “If I could go back in time and say something to myself when I was first diagnosed, I would say to ask for help and then to allow myself to be sick,” she says. “I thought I could conquer the world, but just allowing myself to rest when I needed to rest and knowing that people would help me was really important.”
When Bridgette was diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer she was in complete shock; she never thought it could happen to her. Hear more about her experience with HPV-related cervical cancer in this video, courtesy of My HPV Cancer Story.
No matter what, Bridgette remains committed to sharing her story and educating others. Not everyone realizes that HPV can cause cervical cancer, she says, adding, and “not only are women at potential risk for HPV-related cancers, but men are at risk, too.”
Bridgette’s also learned to live in the moment. “Being diagnosed with cervical cancer allowed me to take a moment and know that life is precious and that we shouldn’t overthink things,” she says. “We should just allow ourselves to not be so rushed. I’ve learned to enjoy my kids and enjoy my husband because that’s really what matters.”
What you may not know about HPV-related cancers and diseases
Since HPV often has no visible signs or symptoms, someone with the virus could potentially pass it on without knowing it. For most people, HPV clears on its own. But for some women, HPV can ultimately cause some cancers and diseases such as cervical cancer, like it did for Bridgette. Individuals should talk to their healthcare provider about their potential risk for an HPV-related cancer.
“The majority of patients that I see have some idea and understanding of HPV, but there’s still a lot of misinformation about it,” says Pari Ghodsi, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN based in Los Angeles. “The more that people talk about HPV amongst each other, and also with their physicians, the more we can open up the conversation and hopefully get the right knowledge across to everyone.”
Here are four HPV-related cancer statistics from the CDC:
What can you do?: According to Dr. Ghodsi, step one is simply realizing that HPV-related cancer could affect you. Start the conversation with your doctor about what you can do to stay on top of your health, like getting routine Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. You can also take steps to learn more about the link between HPV and certain cancers and diseases by visitingMy HPV Cancer Story.
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