Answers to Your HPV Questions

>> Thursday, December 11, 2014

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How many of you have gone to your ObGyn for your annual exam feeling good that you did the right thing, by being responsible and getting your annual checkup and Pap smear? Then, you find out that your pap came back positive for HPV?

Now you may start searching the Internet for all available information on HPV and what it means. Since its a sexually transmitted virus, and my last pap was negative, does this mean my partner cheated on me? Does it mean I'm going to get cervical cancer? There different types, so does it matter which kind I have? I've never had warts - does this mean I'm going to get warts since its a warty virus? Will it affect my chance to get pregnant? Can I give it to my baby during birth? If my partner has it and I get treated can he give it back to me? Can men be treated too so I don't have to worry about him giving it back to me? Could I have had this and given it to my partner? Do we need to use condoms so we don't pass it back and forth? Is it living in my blood stream and infecting my whole body? I read that it can cause oral and throat cancers from oral sex and anal cancer from anal sex or just the semen or penis touching the anal area - is this true?

I know there are so many questions. I get it, it is confusing and so is the information out there.

First, the reason women are urged to get Pap smears every year is to screen for cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. This means that you can become infected with it the very first time you have sex if your partner has had sex with someone before you. Likewise, if your current partner was a virgin when you met and you were not, you can pass it to him. That's why we say, "When we have sex with someone, it's like we are having sex with everyone they have had sex with." We are exposed to any and all viruses and STDs that they have been exposed to. Not a happy thought.

This can be distressing to women because, today, there is no way to treat men or even screen them like we do with Paps for women. And, if you are married and trying to get pregnant, condoms are not an option.

The good thing is, if you are good about getting your pap exams and following up if you get HPV or an abnormal result, then you can be treated. So, this can ease your worry about getting cancer.

HPV and the treatment will not interfere with your ability to get pregnant, but active, untreated forms can be transferred to your baby at birth.
Just remember, sex is sex. So, you can get HPV or any other type of STD with anal sex (anal cancer, anal warts, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc.), oral sex (oral HPV, warts on your vocal chords or gums and tongue) and even by rubbing genitals together without penetration.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are over 100 types of HPV and they all belong to the condyloma or wart family. Many of them can cause genital warts. There are the 40 types can cause cervical or other genital cancers. The other 60 or so HPV types can cause infections and warts elsewhere on the body, even on the hands and face. They can infect the genital areas like the vulva (area outside the vagina), labia, and anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum. These types can also infect the lining of the mouth and throat. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. They are invisible unless the cervix is washed by a strong vinegar solution called acetic acid while other types can cause visible warts on the labia, anus, throat, vocal chords or skin.

HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can't tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own because our immune system can eventually kick it, especially in monogamous relationships. High risk behavior, such as having sex with many different partners on a regular basis, smoking, or having HIV or AIDS, or any disease like diabetes or autoimmune syndromes can also increase your chances of HPV because they weaken the immune system.

HPV types are often referred to as "low-risk" (wart-causing) or "high-risk" (cancer-causing), based on whether they put a person at risk for cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer found that 13 HPV types can cause cancer of the cervix; one of these types can cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and certain head and neck cancers (specifically, the oropharynx, which includes the back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils). The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer.

When the body's immune system can't get rid of a high-risk HPV infection, it can linger over time and turn normal cells into abnormal cells and then cancer. About 10% of women with high-risk HPV on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer.

When high-risk HPV lingers and infects the cells of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis anus, or the oropharynx, it can cause cell changes called dysplasia, which is not a precancerous change. If ignored and untreated, they may eventually develop into cancer.

Using condoms can help prevent getting it. Using WaterWorks for famine hygiene immediately after sex can help clear the vagina of semen that could be infected with it. It is always easier to get any STD when having sex during our period so this is an especially important time to use WaterWorks. WaterWorks is not the same as douching because it uses only plain water with no chemicals and can be used every day if you want. It is FDA cleared for clearing vaginal odors and feminine hygiene.
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