“ I had never had a Cervical Smear before so I was quite nervous. Mr McIndoe was very professional and courteous. He took the time to answer all of my questions and alleviate any doubts I had. He made sure that he understood what I was asking and that I understood what he explained."
Until recently almost all doctors had assumed that HPV treatment for infection of the cervix would not work but a new study shows that this assumption is wrong. As a result it is now proven that HPV on the cervix can be treated very simply and is about 80% successful. With a newly described HPV treatment most women are cured with one visit which takes only a few minutes.
How is the treatment done?
The treatment involves putting a solution of TCA on the cervix with a cotton wool ball for about a minute. The skin of the cervix is damaged by the TCA and fresh skin then grows to replace it. The treatment causes some cramping discomfort for a few minutes but usually settles very quickly.
Do I need follow-up after treatment?
If you have just HPV infection with no evidence of any abnormality on smear test, then I would suggest an HPV test about 2 months after treatment. If the smear test is abnormal also, follow-up would depend upon the results of the smear.
Why is this treatment not more widely available?
Most doctors are not aware of this treatment as it has only been described very recently. The profession believed that HPV formed a latent infection that was impossible to clear. This study, and others, show that HPV infection on the cervix, like infections in other parts of the body, are localised, and can be treated with a local treatment.
Further frequently asked questions
How can HPV be treated?
Treatment for HPV on the cervix uses a chemical, TCA, which kills the skin cells containing HPV and allows new cells to grow and cover the cervix. This treatment has been used on other parts of the body for many years and is effective wherever it is used. The treatment is similar to freezing warts on the hand for example.
Do I need any tests before treatment?
Prior to treatment a full assessment is necessary, including an examination with the colposcope, a cervical smear and an HPV test. The results are reviewed before treatment is booked.
Does the treatment always work?
The treatment is successful in clearing HPV infection in about 4 out of five women. In one out of five the infection persists. We do not usually give a second treatment, as this has not been shown to improve the results.
What should I do to prevent re-infection?
Vaccination is very effective at preventing re-infection with HPV and I would recommend vaccination at the time of treatment to prevent the virus infection returning.
What are the alternatives to this treatment?
The main alternative is not to have treatment at all. HPV infection does not need to be treated. In most women, the virus will be cleared spontaneously by the immune system, usually in 2 to 5 years. The only important issue is to make sure that no serious changes occur in the skin of the cervix whilst the infection persists.
No other treatment for HPV of the cervix has been shown to be effective in clearing the virus.
What does TCA stand for?
TCA stands for Trichloroacetic Acid, which has been used very successfully to treat warts and precancerous skin abnormalities in a variety of different parts of the body. The benefit of this type of treatment is that it treats just the skin and preserves the underlying tissues
Has this treatment been tested?
Just recently, a new study has looked at the effectiveness of treating precancerous abnormalities on the cervix. A total of 241 women were treated with TCA in this trial and the cure rate for CIN was 80 to 82% and 75% for high risk HPV.