Our staff gets a number of questions, from people of all generations, about HPV. It seems for all the buzz words out there about sexually transmitted concerns, vaccinations, cancer linkage, and risk factors, that there is less clarity than could be. Our job is to treat our patients, but also to inform our community to the best of our ability.
What is HPV?
HPV is the abbreviation for the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection. According to womenshealth.gov, it is the most common sexually transmitted infection and through their life, at least 80% of women in the United States will contract this STI. There is evidence that HPV can also be transmitted by non-sexual contact although that is less common.
Why does it matter to me? What does it matter to my teenager?
The largest concern is that HPV can cause cervical cancer. There are dozens of types of HPV that are fairly mild, but the type of HPV that is specifically linked to this cancer is preventable with a vaccine as are a few other rare cancers. The vaccine works most effectively if given before any type of sexual contact.
What are symptoms?
There is limited evidence for symptoms of HPV. This is one of the reasons Pap tests are recommended with such frequency. The only symptom that may exist is the presence of genital warts, appearing “as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area.”
How can HPV be prevented?
Due to the sexual transmission of HPV, avoiding any type of sexual contact with an infected partner would be one form of prevention. The use of condoms will prevent some transmission, but not all because there may be other areas of contact not protected by condoms. There is a vaccine that will provide prevention, but will only prevent HPV, not other STIs. Monogamy in terms of sexual relationships will help reduce your risk of getting HPV as well.
While most cases are sexually transmitted, it is important to make sure areas coming in contact with your skin are clean. Whether you need to wash your hands more frequently, make sure your doctor’s exam table is covered with clean paper, or wipe down a gym locker room area before using it, make sure your own health is a top priority.
How can HPV be treated?
There is no cure for HPV. Most infections run their course and go away on their own, but that doesn’t prevent the possibility of infection happening again. Any cancer caused by HPV would be treated with the help of your medical professional.
Are there lasting effects of HPV?
HPV can cause other illnesses. The most common are genital warts and cervical cancer. Both have very different prognosis and treatment options.
To learn more, to ask us questions, or to seek treatment for any issues you may be experiencing, come see us at one of our several locations today. We are here to help you with your health needs, every day.