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HPV and Cancer

From the GYN Cancer Articles List

What is HPV, and how is it linked to cancer?What is HPV, and how is it linked to cancer?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 50% of all sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. HPV can cause genital warts and cancer. In fact, almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Many vulvar cancers, vaginal cancers, anal cancers, and penile cancers are also linked to HPV. Even mouth and throat cancers can be caused by HPV. So if you have a pap smear that indicates the possible presence of HPV, do a follow-up to confirm it or rule it out. Note that the kind of HPV that causes genital warts is not the same kind that can cause cancer.

Having HPV does not mean you have cancer or will get it; it just means you are at a higher risk of developing cancer if you carry the virus for a long period of time. You can carry HPV for years without knowing it. People without symptoms can pass it to sexual partners without realizing they have the virus at all. This is what makes HPV so common and so dangerous for some. In 90% of cases, the virus goes away on its own within a year or two without ever causing a problem. The immune system is apparently able to destroy it in most. However, a few people will carry it for years, and it is these people who are more at risk for HPV-related cancers.

There are vaccines available that can help protect both males and females against many types of HPV. These vaccines are most effective if given before the person’s first sexual contact. The vaccine is given in three doses over six months and is recommended ideally for 11 and 12 year old girls, though women and men up to 26 years of age can have the vaccine as well. You can also lower your risk of getting HPV by using condoms or by having a single, faithful partner.

Get annual pap smears to screen for HPV, even if you were vaccinated against it. Vaccines do not prevent every kind of HPV, so cervical cancer is still possible for any woman. Even if your pap smear shows abnormal cells, though, do not panic. Very often, the body’s immune system naturally clears up the abnormalities, and a follow-up pap smear will be clear.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

08-06-2011 - 04:28 AM


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