Understanding HPV

Understanding HPV

You may have heard of HPV. Perhaps you’ve even received the HPV vaccine. But how much do you really know about this important sexual health topic?

For example, do you know that HPV, which stands for human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in America? Do you realize that HPV can spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex? And are you aware that both women and men can develop HPV infections?

At Virtuosa GYN in San Antonio, Texas, Susan Crockett, MD, and our team believe that learning about the conditions that can affect your health, including HPV, can help you live a healthier, happier life. With that in mind, we would like to share some other important facts about HPV.

There are many types of HPV

Although we tend to talk about HPV as if it’s just one type of virus, there are actually 200 viruses within the HPV category. The various types of sexually transmitted HPV viruses range from low risk to high risk. Although not all HPV strains spread through sexual contact, many do. 

High-risk HPV strains can cause cancer

Low-risk strains of sexually transmitted HPV often go away on their own. But high-risk strains can cause various types of cancer, including cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, rectum, anus, mouth, and throat, as well as the penis and scrotum in men.

HPV can cause genital warts

Although genital warts are far less serious than cancer, they still have an impact. Genital warts can develop on the mouth, throat, and/or genitals of men and women. They can cause itching, bleeding, or discomfort, and can spread to sexual partners.

Screening can identify cancers and precancers

Although HPV infection can cause various types of cancer, cervical cancer is the most common cancer associated with HPV. In the past, many women died from cervical cancer, but cervical cancer death rates have fallen significantly since the development of cervical cancer screening.

Pap tests look for cervical cancer as well as precancerous cellular changes in the cervix that could eventually develop into cancer. In addition, HPV tests can identify HPV within cervical cells.

The frequency of cervical cancer screening depends on several factors, including your age. During your annual well-woman visits each year, we let you know whether you need cervical cancer screening.

HPV vaccines offer protection

The HPV vaccine is a safe, effective way to protect yourself from the types of HPV that cause cancer and genital warts.

Generally, the vaccination is given to girls and boys before they become sexually active, ideally at age 11 or 12. But it may also be given to older women and men. At Virtuosa GYN, we can tell you whether you could benefit from an HPV vaccine. If you haven’t received HPV vaccination, let us know. 

Protect yourself from HPV

We offer a full range of prevention and treatment services for sexually transmitted infections such as HPV. To schedule an appointment, contact us today at our San Antonio, Texas, office.

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