HPV - Human Papillomavirus: What You Need to Know

>> Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bookmark and Share
I know many of you are worried when you are sent to me from your primary care doctor (or return after a pap I have done showing abnormal results) with dysplasia or Human papillomavirus - HPV. HPV is the name for a group of more than 100 types of viruses; more than 40 types of HPV can be passed through sexual contact.

We may feel like we are the only ones who have such a thing when we get it, but HPV is so easy to get and so common that over 70% of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. In fact, HPV is the most common STD in America, with well over 25 million cases and rising. Some people will never know they even have it because they never break out with warts or never have an abnormal pap test. HPV usually has no symptoms, but can have periods of flaring up and then hibernating. Most of the time there are no signs of infection or "flare ups" (such as abnormal discharge or itching) to alert us of a problem.

The pap test is designed to detect abnormalities of cervical cells and also HPV infections. The pap test will focus on High Risk abnormalities, as these types are known to cause cervical cancer. Low Risk types can cause genital warts - which are obvious when they are present and which can be removed. The HPV that causes cancer cannot be seen visibly when your doctor looks at your cervix or anal area. HPV is a flat warty virus that is invisible to the naked eye. The vaccine focuses on preventing only the top High Risk types of HPV.

If you have an abnormal pap test it is important to follow-up for further testing by your doctor to determine the reason for it. Sometimes yeast or bacterial infections, cervical irritation or hormone changes can be the cause. An abnormal pap does not always mean HPV infection or cervical cancer. A colposcopy is often done to help your doctor see the abnormal tissue on the cervix. It is a lot like getting a pap smear except a special magnifying scope can be used with a strong iodine solution or acetic acid solution that causes the HPV to show up white. This helps your doctor know where to do a biopsy to send a sample to pathology for further evaluation. Some colposcopies are being done with colpo biopsy brushes which are much faster and less painful.

If you do have HPV, there are different ways it can be treated right in your doctor's office. Using Cryosurgery, abnormal tissue is frozen off. The Loop Electrosurgical Excision procedure (LEEP) uses a hot wire loop to remove tissue. Laser treatment uses a beam of light to destroy abnormal tissue.

Cone biopsy, where a cone-shaped sample of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix and looked at under the microscope, is done in the operating room and reserved for instances when biopsies show early signs of cancer. This biopsy also can serve as a treatment if all the abnormal tissue is removed.

If you have had the HPV vaccine, it does not mean you do not need to worry about HPV or about getting a pap test. HPV can lay dormant for years, and even undetected HPV can show up after the vaccine because the vaccine does not cure HPV. It simply prevents us from getting infected or reinfected.

Being in an exclusive relationship is the best way to prevent HPV infection or reinfection. Note, condoms don’t always protect you from HPV. But, they may reduce your risk of getting genital warts and other STDs.

Just remember, the best thing is to follow up with your doctor and get your annual pap smears, so you know you are healthy. Encourage your partner to visit the doctor as well.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP