Micheline Fornarotto and Dr. Alan Welt

"I feel eternally grateful for the HPV test. If Dr. Welt had not asked me for my consent to have the HPV test, I may not be sitting here today as a cervical cancer survivor."

- Micheline Fornarotto

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Read Dr. Welt's Perspective

In September 2005, I began routine screening with the HPV test for women over 30, and today, all five physicians in my practice do the same. There is abundant data supporting HPV testing for primary screening and now, based on my personal experience, I have a great deal of confidence in the value of the HPV test.

Micheline Fornarotto’s Story

When my doctor asked me if I would consent to have an HPV test as part of my routine exam, I thought, "Sure, why not. I have nothing to worry about." I've been with my husband for 11 years and never had any signs or symptoms of any STD. I assumed the test would come back normal. My doctor explained that he was doing a lot of reading on the correlation between HPV and cervical cancer. He believed the Pap test alone was no longer enough to detect early signs of cancer. Thank goodness I listened to him!

My results came back and oddly enough my Pap test was normal but my HPV test was positive. I was totally devastated. How did I end up with HPV? At first I was ashamed. How could I be infected with this disease? My doctor helped ease my anxiety and reassured me that about 80 percent of women get HPV, but it often goes undetected for a long time. He told me there was nothing to be ashamed of: HPV is as common as a cold. And given my history of normal Pap tests, he assured me that it was nothing to be alarmed about.

I'm just thankful my doctor decided to monitor me closely, because six months later, when I returned to his office for follow-up Pap and HPV test, my results showed I was still positive for HPV and I now had abnormal cells. This time I had reason to worry!

My doctor then immediately scheduled me for a colposcopy in his office, and oddly enough, as he took this close-up look at my cervix, he said mine was "one of the healthiest cervixes he'd ever seen." He was convinced there was a mix-up at the lab with my Pap test. So he did another Pap, which again returned with abnormalities.

My doctor and I were both surprised. Puzzled, my doctor next scheduled me for a more invasive second procedure, a deep biopsy of my cervix (also known as a cone biopsy). This is when we finally found out what was really going on – I had a type of cervical cancer called adenocarcinoma.

Both my doctor and I were shocked at the diagnosis. I was even more so when I found out that the cancer was so invasive that I needed a hysterectomy. The cancer was beyond the margins of the biopsy and possibly beyond the cervix. The only lucky part of this diagnosis was that my oncologists agreed that we caught this early enough that I didn't need any further treatments like chemo or radiation therapy, and surgery alone would be the cure.

It may seem odd but I thank God every day that I tested positive for HPV. I know that because of that positive HPV test, my doctor was so persistent and able to catch my cancer before it spread further. I definitely feel very fortunate.

While some women might be a little embarrassed about talking about the fact that they have HPV, my experience has taught me that this is something women should be talking about more openly! If I hadn't had the HPV test, I know things would have turned out differently. The cancer would have likely had a chance to persist longer unchecked, and I might not have been cured so easily. More importantly, I might not be able to be the mom, wife and friend I am today.