The journey of a woman with HPV-related cancer

Three years ago, Bridgette *, a wife and mother of two young children, was shocked when a routine Pap smear identified abnormal cells. Bridgette was devastated when additional tests confirmed that 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 goes away on its own, but this is 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 will not remove 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 patient was a challenge for Bridgette. “It took me a little time to figure it all out,” he says.

Develop an action plan

Bridgette’s journey began with an abnormal Pap smear at a routine gynecologist visit. He followed up with a biopsy that showed he had stage one cervical cancer. Bridgette, who is now in her 30s, was diagnosed at a much younger age than the average occurrence of HPV-related cervical cancer, which is around 49, according to the CDC. For some people who do not clear the virus, a diagnosis of cervical cancer can occur years or decades after being infected, and people can be diagnosed with cervical cancer between the ages of 20 and 80. For Bridgette, an HPV-related cancer diagnosis raised many questions and it was difficult to understand her new reality. “I knew HPV could potentially cause cancer,” he says, “but I also thought it couldn’t happen to me.”

“After we saw the gynecological oncologist, he gave us hope because we were able to have a plan.

Within a few weeks, she met with a gynecologic oncologist to come up with a treatment plan, which included radiation and chemotherapy. When caught early, the five-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is about 90 percent. “After we saw the gynecologic oncologist, he gave us hope because we were able to have a plan and we knew what we had to do,” says Bridgette.

Bridgette’s treatment was successful, she has been cancer free and grateful for the support of her family and her care team on her road to recovery.

Lessons from your journey against cancer

Bridgette recognizes how important it is to have a strong support system during cancer treatment. “If I could go back in time and tell me something when I was first diagnosed, I would say ask for help and then let me be sick,” she says. “I thought I could conquer the world, but 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, he says, adding, and “not only are women at potential risk for HPV-related cancers, but men are as well.”

Bridgette 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 think too much about things,” she says. “We should allow ourselves not to be in such a rush. I have learned to enjoy my children and my husband because that is what really 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 unknowingly pass it on. For most people, HPV goes away on its own. But for some women, HPV can ultimately cause some cancers and diseases like cervical cancer, as it did with Bridgette. People should talk to their healthcare provider about the potential risk of HPV-related cancer.

“Most of the patients I see have some idea and understanding of HPV, but there is still a lot of misinformation about it,” says Pari Ghodsi, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN based in Los Angeles. “The more people talk about HPV with each other and also with their doctors, the more we can open the conversation and hopefully pass the right knowledge on to everyone.”

Here are four HPV-related cancer statistics from the CDC:

What can you do?: According to Dr. Ghodsi, the first step is to simply realize 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 a routine Pap test for cervical cancer. You can also take steps to learn more about the link between HPV and certain cancers and diseases by visiting My HPV Cancer Story.

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