HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted disease. While it usually goes away on its own, it can lead to health problems such as genital warts if left untreated. There are many different types of HPV, some of which are associated with cancer.
HPV is spread through sexual activity, particularly anal or vaginal sex. If you have sex with someone who has the virus, you run the risk of acquiring it, especially if you don’t use protection.
HPV is often asymptomatic. If you develop genital warts, however, you have the infection. Genital warts can be flat or raised, small or large, pink or flesh-colored, and appear alone or as a group. They may appear on the anus, cervix, groin, penis, scrotum, or thigh. High-risk types of HPV seldom cause any symptoms.
If you have genital warts, your doctor will diagnose HPV through a visual examination. Women may be diagnosed after receiving abnormal Pap smear results. When this happens, your doctor may order a DNA test or a colposcopy, which uses a special magnifying device to determine which type of HPV you have. After age 30, combined Pap and HPV tests are appropriate every year, but more frequent testing may be indicated. While there is no routine test for high-risk HPV in men, bisexuality and homosexuality raise the risk factors and an anal Pap test may be recommended.
There is no treatment for HPV itself, but derivative health problems should be treated. Medications treat genital warts. Procedures that help prevent precancerous cervical cells from evolving into cancer include:
In most cases, HPV goes away on its own within 1-2 years. If it doesn’t, and you do not receive treatment, the virus can cause cells to turn into cancer. This may take 10-30 years from the time of infection.
HPV is associated with numerous types of cancer, including cancers of the:
Vaccinations, safe sex, and routine medical exams can help prevent HPV and its complications. Dr. Edmond can help determine your best prevention plan.
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