Grandmother Speaks… The Cervix, Part 2
by Susun Weed
Not the same thing, but frequently confused, even by doctors. When columnar cells grow too quickly, they push aside the squamous cells, causing eversion and erosion. In an eversion, there is generally a clear dividing line between the cells. In an erosion, there is no definite border.
Cervical eversions show a clear dividing line between the two types of cells, though the columnar cells are spilling out of the os, instead of confining themselves to the inside of the cervix. Cervical eversions revert to normal when the hormones triggering them - such as birth control pills - are removed. Some women have a “congenital” eversion which is present at birth, regresses until puberty, may be especially prominent if she is pregnant, and regresses after menopause. Eversion generally requires no treatment; if confused with erosion, over-treatment is likely.
Surgical procedures - such as endometrial biopsy, D&C, aspiration extraction of the contents of the womb, radiation implantation, cone biopsy, cryosurgery, and laser ablation - as well as trauma from childbirth and intercourse, can, in the presence of inflammation and infection, lead to cervicitis or erosion.
Cervical erosion is a term that is often applied to any redness seen on the cervix, from an abrasion to a full-blown infection. “[It] conjures up a frightening picture of the cervix wasting away like bare earth after a heavy rain, [and] is not only erroneous, but absurd.” Conservative doctors may suggest removal of the “eroded” tissue. Alternative methods are quite successful in healing cervical erosion; complementary medicines can ease side-effects and hasten healing if drugs or surgery are chosen.
Cervical Dysplasia: Abnormal Cells in the Cervix
Dysplasias often regress with no treatment. Over-treatment in both orthodox and alternative circles is common.
This silent infection rarely causes symptoms and usually is dealt with by the immune system. A few of the sixty known varieties can cause cervical cancer. Poor women are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and more likely to die of it and more likely to be helped by mandated vaccination programs against it. Unfortunately, the vaccine is only useful before a woman has had any contact, sexual or otherwise, with HPV.
When abnormal cell growth triggered by HPV is unchecked by the immune system, it can invade adjoining tissues and even spread through the blood to distant sites. Untreated, cervical cancer is lethal. Caught early, virtually all cases are cured.
YOUR HEALTHY CERVIX
Keeping your cervix healthy is a lot like keeping your whole self healthy, but with a few special considerations.
Imagine how difficult it would be to keep your face healthy if you never looked at it or touched it. Though it may seem odd, looking at your cervix and touching it, at least once in your life, is important. And it’s easy.
You will need a mirror, a flashlight, a plastic speculum, some private time and space (though I have done this in groups), and a reference book like A New View of a Woman’s Body. With some wiggling and jiggling, you can arrange yourself, the mirror and the flashlight so you can see your cervix. Amazing!
How do you get a speculum? You can ask to keep the one they use the next time you have a gynecological checkup. Can you buy one at the drug store?
As part of the uterus, the cervix is made healthier by those herbs that nourish and tonify the womb: raspberry leaf infusion, motherwort tincture.
As part of the vagina, the cervix is exposed to dangerous bacteria, viruses, and fungi, usually from, though not limited to, sex. Additionally, the cervix suffers trauma when the vagina is traumatized. Keeping good gut flora keeps the gut healthy, and so keeping good vaginal flora keeps the cervix and vagina healthy. That’s why I start my day with a cup of plain yogurt, and avoid bubble baths, douches, and feminine hygiene sprays, and am very, very fussy indeed about what I allow to enter my vagina.
Ms. Weed's five herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including menopause, childbearing, and breast health. Browse the publishing site www.wisewomanbookshop.com for books, DVDs, audio downloads and gifts. Visit her site www.susunweed.com for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Go to: www.wisewomanmentor.com for Susun's free herbal ezine and also mentorship offerings for those who want to go deeper.