The Human Papillomavirus commonly known as HPV is one of the most widespread STI transmitted in the US. About 70 million teens and young adults (adults in their early 20s) are estimated to already be infected with this virus1. Many people can be infected for years and never show symptoms, while others never show symptoms until health complications associated with virus arise. Of those that eventually begin showing symptoms, these appear as warts in the genital area and you should immediately schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN as HPV can lead to cervical cancer. If you do not have an OB/GYN, visit our website for information on locations close to you and schedule an appointment to see one of our gynecologists in Manhattan today. It is imperative that you take this seriously, especially if you were/are sexually active as HPV is the leading cause of certain cancers. There is no known cure for HPV, but in most cases, the virus goes away without any intervention. It’s in the cases where the virus remains that health complications arise.
How HPV is transmitted and ways to mitigate the risk factors.
It is estimated that 14 million people are infected with HPV every year1. This is because HPV is very contagious and there is no prevention protocol that works more than 70% of the time with the exception of complete sexual abstinence1. This is why parents are advised to have their teens vaccinated at age 11. Catch-up vaccinations are also available for adults who were not vaccinated at age 11 up until age 26. Aside from this vaccination, there is no other method to greatly mitigate the risk factors. Even condoms are not failing proof when it comes to HPV. Condoms can only provide 70% assurance, as the virus resides on other parts of the skin not covered by the condoms. HPV is transmitted through all forms of sexually contact; this includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. Even an infected person who is not exhibiting any of the symptoms can transmit this virus. The virus can also reside in the throat/mouth and can lead to oral/throat cancers. In addition to this, it is responsible for thousands of cervix, penis and anus cancers diagnosed in both men and women every year. Individuals living with compromised immune systems (e.g. HIV/AIDS patients) are at greater risk of developing these cancers. Furthermore, individuals who have more than one sexual partner or whose partner has multiple other partners are at a greater risk of being infected.
How HPV is diagnosed: The significance of your routine Pap Smears
High-risk HPV strains (those responsible for cancers) do not have any symptoms, hence it is imperative that you work-in routine screens into your medical appointments2. There is no set way to determine the HPV status of a person; most of the time it is diagnosed by screening for abnormal cells caused by HPV. Furthermore, routine screens to test (Pap smears) for HPV are available for only women. However, there are no tests to screen for oral or throat HPV. Pap tests are extremely significant because they test for abnormal cells caused by the high-risk HPV strains. Pap tests are carried out by taking samples of the cells on the cervix walls. This is done by wiping/brushing a swab on the cervix walls. A second test swab is sometimes used to take samples in order to test for the HPV Virus itself, this process is known as co-testing3. As these strains are responsible for most cancers, early detection can prevent/ treat conditions before they develop. Hence reducing the number of HPV cancer-related cases. Sexually active women (especially does above the age of 30) are advised to have regular Pap tests to monitor the health of the cells in the cervix and detect the early occurrence of HPV related pre-cancers. Consult our OB/GYNs in Manhattan today for more information or schedule an appointment at 67 street OB/GYN- Total Women’s Health Care.