How familiar are you with human papillomavirus (HPV)? If you don’t know much about it, you probably should, because it affects about 80% of women at some point in their lives.
At Virtuosa GYN in San Antonio, Texas, we believe all women should educate themselves about HPV. We would like to share with you the following important facts:
HPV is the name for a group of viruses that are transmitted from person to person through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. HPV causes the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and can affect women and men who are straight or gay.
There are more than 100 different kinds of HPV; about 40 can spread through sexual contact.
HPV is sometimes referred to as a silent infection, because it may not cause symptoms. But some kinds of HPV do lead to the development of warts in the genital area.
In women, genital warts typically look like small or large bumps on your vulva or in your vagina, cervix, or anus. In men, genital warts may appear on the penis, scrotum, or anus.
Genital warts may be raised, flat, or bumpy. They’re sometimes described as having a cauliflower-like texture.
If you have HPV without symptoms, you may still spread the infection through sexual contact.
Some types of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix (the passage between your vagina and your uterus), as well as cancer of the genitals (vulva, vagina, penis, or anus) and oral area (throat, tongue, or tonsils). But in many cases, HPV goes away on its own without causing cancer or other health problems.
Before cervical cancer develops, abnormal cells typically grow in the cervix. A test known as the Pap test can detect these abnormal cells. During a Pap test, we collect cells from your cervix and vagina and send them to a lab for analysis.
If your Pap test shows signs of abnormal cells, it doesn’t mean you have cancer. But you may need treatment to protect yourself from getting cancer in the future. When we find abnormal cells, we talk with you about the next steps, which usually include further testing.
We recommend that you have your first Pap test before age 21 and again every three to five years, depending on risk factors. We may also recommend HPV testing, based on your age, health history, and sexual activity.
The HPV vaccine can help prevent genital warts, cervical cancer, and some other kinds of cancer caused by HPV.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for females and males beginning at around age 11, because it works best if you receive it before you become sexually active. But the HPV vaccine offers protection even if you are already having sex.
To further protect yourself from HPV, practice safe sex by using a condom. This is especially important if you have sex with multiple partners, which increases your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections.
At Virtuosa GYN, we offer a full range of HPV care, including HPV vaccines, HPV testing, Pap tests, and treatment for positive Pap tests. Call us today to schedule an appointment.