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Q. What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV?
A. In both men and women HPV is one of the more common sexually transmitted infections. It can lead to cervical cancer as well. There are more then 100 types of HPV.
Q. Why is HPV testing so important?
A. The Human Papilloma Virus is present in about 99% of cervical cancers. The presence of this virus can put a woman at risk for cervical cancer. However, this does not mean that she will get cancer. The HPV test is very crucial in aiding your doctor to assess your risk of developing cervical cancer.
Q. What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?
A. HPV can manifest in different ways. It is also possible to be infected without any symptoms appearing for weeks, months, or years after the initial infection. One of the symptoms which is obvious to the naked eye is visible warts in the vaginal area. The other is seen microscopically as abnormal changes on a Pap Test.
Q. Are you at risk?
A. About 5.5 million people are infected annually and it is estimated that about 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. Increased risk includes:
- Having a partner with a history of other STDs or abnormal Paps
- Multiple sex partners or being partners with someone that has multiple sex partners
- Being sexually active at a young age
Q. How are HPV infections detected?
A. You may be infected without any visible symptoms. So here are the following ways HPV is detected:
- Genital Warts
- Abnormal Pap Test
- A DNA Assay using PCR which can be collected at the time of your Pap
Q. How will your doctor use the HPV test?
A. Your doctor may order the HPV test in the event that your Pap test results are abnormal. The HPV test results will be reviewed along with your Pap test results to determine if you have HPV, if you’re are at risk for cervical cancer, and what will the follow-up plan be.
Q. What are the effects of HPV on pregnancy?
A. If you show signs of genital warts during your pregnancy it can cause a number of problems. Sometimes during pregnancy genital warts get larger. If the warts are in the urinary tract then this can make it difficult to urinate. If you have vaginal warts they can possibly cause obstruction during delivery. It is rare but there are some cases in which children born to mothers with genital warts develop warts in their throat. Even though this is a very rare occurrence it is potentially life threatening to the child. Even though there is not a cure for HPV, there are very affective treatment plans that show promise in slowing the course of the disease.
Q. What are the effects of HPV on a woman who is HIV positive?
A. Patients that have HIV have a higher risk for HPV-related complications. Patients with HIV tend to have multiple types of HPV.The standard treatments for HPV tend to work poorly in women who are HIV positive. They will have to consult with their health care provider to find a method to manage their HIV and HVP together.
Q. How does HPV affect men?
A. It is recommended that if a male’s partner is positive for HPV that he should be examined by their physician. HPV in males may result in genital warts and can be treated. There is also a chance that the HPV virus could be present in the male without any signs of warts.
Q. Is there any way to prevent HPV?
A. HPV is a little different then other STDS. HPV can be contracted from skin to skin contact, not the exchange of body fluids. This is why there is no true way to prevent getting HPV but here are a few ways to help lessen your chance of contracting HPV:
- Abstinence-There is no such thing as true "safe sex", so the safest sex is no sex
- Monogamy-If you are choosing to be sexually active staying with the same partner will help reduce the risk of HPV especially if they are not infected with HPV.The more partners you have the more risk you have of getting HPV.
- Condom Use-Even though a condom cannot prevent acquiring HPV, it can help lessen any symptoms of HPV should you be exposed.
- Vaccine-In the summer of 2006 the FDA approved a new vaccine for HPV. The vaccine protects against four of the common strains of HPV.The vaccine cannot be used to cure HPV however, it can be used to prevent acquiring other strains. It is not advised that women that have HPV get the vaccine.
Q. How can HPV infections be treated?
A. It is important for women that have cervical abnormalities obtain regular Pap tests. Depending on your results your physician may order additional tests to find the best treatment or follow-up for you. Genital warts can be treated through several effective wart therapies.