Is There Treatment For HPV?

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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 " I've been told I have HPV and I wanted to know if there is any treatment for it?"

HPV is a virus that is acquired through sexual contact. There are over a hundred types of HPV. Some can cause visible condyloma (a growth resembling a wart) and other types infect cells internally. When the cells are infected internally, the virus can take over the cell & start causing tissue changes consistent with early signs of cancer. These early changes are called dysplasia, and are not cancer, but if left untreated can eventually become cancer.

Condyloma are seen on the labia majora and labia minora, mons pubis, vaginal opening and around the anus.  These can be treated with prescription solutions that can be applied at home. Many women choose to have them removed surgically using a CO2 laser. This is much quicker, less painful and works better when there are multiple condyloma in different areas.

When the HPV infection shows up on your pap smear, the virus cannot be seen as a visible lesion or a wart.  In this case, it has infected the cervical cells internally. When this happens, your OB/Gyn will call you to notify you of the abnormal pap test and the high risk HPV status.

At this point, further testing will be ordered. If your pap test is otherwise normal, but is positive for high risk HPV, it is ok to return to your doctor for paps every six months. If your pap test is positive for dysplasia (mild, moderate, or severe) then it is usually best to have a colposcopy done with a biopsy.

If this test returns from the pathologist showing no underlying cancer cells, then the next step would be to remove the infected tissue. This can be done in two ways: 1) If the biopsy and pap show only mild dysplasia, the tissue can be frozen off (cryotherapy), and a follow up pap done is in three months to make sure it has cleared and healed; 2) The other option is to perform a LEEP procedure, which is done by numbing the cervix with lidocaine and shaving off the abnormal tissue with small instruments that have wire loops on the ends . The tissue can then be sent to pathology for evaluation. If no cancer is seen, the patient can return in 3 months for a repeat pap and continued close survellence.

When these procedures are done, HPV can be completely removed, however there is always a chance of reinfection from the male partner. Many women worry because they have a misconception that HPV is in the blood and can circulate throughout their bodies, but in reality HPV can only infect the areas it comes in contact with.

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