Five Things to Know About HPV

dmitriy-ilkevich-437760Photo by Dmitriy Ilkevich on Unsplash

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. HPV is the Leading Cause of Cervical Cancer.

79 million Americans have Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection. 12,000 American women will contract cervical cancer this year, almost entirely as a result of HPV. Of those, roughly one-third will lose their battle with the disease.

What can you do?

Cervical cancer as a result of HPV is typically a slow moving condition and – when caught early – can be treated. Learn more about the virus and the diseases it causes, and contact your healthcare provider if you have further questions.

1. All sexually active adults have at some point or another had one of many strains of the Human Papillomavirus. Many strains cause no problems and are thwarted by your immune system in one to two years. Other strains cause genital warts, which can flare up once or become a chronic condition.

But other strains are destructive to the cells at the opening of the cervix. Sometimes, weakened immune systems are unable fight off the viral infection. The virus can live in the body for weeks, months, years or decades without affecting the cervix.

2. There is no treatment for the virus once it has entered your body, but vaccinations are available for teenagers and young adults. The virus is passed by genital contact with other soft tissue areas (even without penetration). Proper use of male condoms reduces the likelihood of passing the contagion on somewhat, but only the areas covered by the prophylactic.

Pregnant women almost always have normal deliveries and healthy babies who do not have the virus.

3. 14 million Americans are infected with  HPV every year. Even if you receive this diagnosis, remember that it is a completely normal infection, much like the chicken pox. The American Sexual Health Association and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition have online support communities at where you can find information and support from others.

4. A Pap test can alert your physician if there are any abnormal cell changes to the cervix. HPV tests alert doctors and patients to which women are at the highest risk for cervical cancer. Pap/HPV co-tests are suggested for all women over 30.

A Pap test is the only way to find precancerous cells of the cervix. Catching problematic cells before cancer begins is the best way to fight cervical cancer. Get screened according to the guidelines suggested by your personal physician, typically every 3 to 5 years. But remember, the virus can be dormant for long periods of time. Don’t forget to continue screening for this reason.

5. Dr. Joanna Wilson is one of the practitioners of HerCare. At ADC, they treat each woman as a unique individual to develop physical and psychological well-being. The Practitioners of HerCare provide primary care and annual exams with an emphasis on applying the latest scientific knowledge of gender differences in diseases and treatments.

Dr. Wilson believes that the woman’s annual pelvic examination is a vital component to a patient’s overall health, and refers for obstetric and surgical gynecologic and urologic care. She believes that the patient and doctor are a team working towards a common goal, and that success is based in patient education and empowerment. Contact us at HerCare to set up an appointment for a Pap test today.

(Some information provided by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.)
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