Understanding HPV (Human Papillomavirus) And Cervical Cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and it can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. Cervical cancer is one type of cancer that can be caused by HPV. In fact, about 12,900 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year alone (and 4,100 will die from it).
What Is HPV?
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. The CDC reports that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. Most people who have HPV have no symptoms and don’t even realize they are infected, but some people with HPV develop genital warts or cervical cancer.
What Health Problems Are Associated With HPV?
- HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
- HPV can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, mouth and throat.
- About 14 million people become infected with HPV each year in the United States.
How Are Cervical Cancer And Other HPV-Related Health Problems Diagnosed?
If you have symptoms, your doctor will examine you. There are also tests that can be done to look at changes in the cervix. Tests include:
- Pap test (also called a Pap smear)
- HPV test
Cervical cancer is diagnosed by taking a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix. This is done with a tool called a speculum and sometimes with an instrument used to scrape cells off the lining of your cervix. The sample is sent to a laboratory and looked at under a microscope for signs of cancer. Blood tests can also be used to check for certain proteins associated with cervical cancer, but they’re not as accurate or reliable as an actual physical exam or biopsy.
How Are Cervical Cancer And Other HPV-Related Health Problems Treated?
HPV is a very common virus. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and most people will get HPV at some point in their lives. HPV can cause cervical cancer and other health problems, but not all women who have HPV develop symptoms or health problems.
Cervical cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy (chemo). If you need surgery for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, your doctor will remove the abnormal tissue from your cervix. You may need additional treatments if the disease has spread to other parts of your body or if the cancer returns after treatment ends.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Developing Cervical Cancer Or Having An HPV-Related Health Problem?
- Get vaccinated: The HPV vaccine can help prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. It also helps protect against genital warts.
- Get screened: Screening and treatment can find cervical cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for changes in the cells on your cervix that could be caused by HPV, as well as signs of other cervical cell changes. It is recommended that you get your first Pap test at age 21 or 3 years after becoming sexually active (whichever comes first). If you are 30 years old or older and have had three consecutive negative annual Pap tests in the previous 10 years without any abnormal results, it is recommended that screening stop until age 70 unless your doctor advises otherwise. If you have other health risks for cervical cancer like a weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS or something similar, talk with your doctor about when it’s best for you to start getting screened regularly again.
- Use condoms: Use condoms during sexual intercourse—vaginal intercourse as well as anal sex—to lower your risk of contracting any STD including HPV infection which may cause genital warts or lead to precancerous lesions which could develop into invasive cancers later on down the road if not detected early enough for preventive measures such as LEEP procedures done before these lesions become malignant tumors where removal becomes harder due to invasion into surrounding tissues making surgery difficult without causing more damage than good if performed at all
The good news is that most HPV infections go away on their own and never cause any health problems. For the rest that don’t, there are vaccines to prevent them, screening tests to catch them early, and treatments that can help keep you healthy.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. It has been found to cause genital warts and certain types of cancers, including cervical cancer. However, it does not always lead to these health problems.
Most people who get HPV don’t know that they have been infected because there are no symptoms and many infections go away on their own within one or two years without causing any harm. But if an infection doesn’t go away, you can develop different types of cancer caused by HPV; this is known as high-risk or persistent HPV infection. While you have high-risk or persistent HPV infection, you can pass it on to other people through sexual contact.
Using condoms consistently and correctly during sex offers some protection against all STIs including HIV but not against all types of HPV infections
The best way to protect yourself against HPV and cervical cancer is to get vaccinated against the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers. If you are up-to-date with your vaccines, it’s important that you continue doing regular screenings so your doctor can catch any changes in your health early.