HPV & Cervical Cancer

Posted by GPWHC on 23 January 2018

What is HPV and how is it related to cervical cancer? Cervical cancer is by far the most common HPV-related disease. Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be attributed to HPV infection. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and marks the perfect time to talk about human papillomavirus virus, how it affects cancer of the cervix, what you need to know and what you can do to keep yourself protected.

First a little background on HPV. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of many viruses that are very common throughout the world, and of these, about 13 are cancer causing. HPV is usually passed from person to person during direct skin-to-skin contact. Note that penetrative sex is not required for either party to get the infection, and it is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. As stated, t here are many types of HPV, and many do not cause problems. Most HPV infections usually clear up in a few months, with some taking around 2 years. The problem comes with the 13 types of HPV which cause precancerous lesions or cancer.

The frightening part of HPV is that most women experience no symptoms or health problems to indicate when they have HPV. Sometimes, certain HPV types can cause warts on various parts of the body. However, persistent infections with specific types of HPV may lead to precancerous lesions. If left untreated, these lesions may progress to cervical cancer, with this progression taking place over many years.

The following symptoms of cervical cancer tend to appear after the cancer has reached an advanced stage and may include;

  • Pain in pelvic area, back or legs
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss or fatigue
  • Bleeding between periods, or abnormal bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal discomfort or discharge

What can you do to protect yourself?

Get Tested. An HPV test is a way to prevent cervical cancer. During this test, your doctor or healthcare provider will take a sample of cells from the cervix. Your doctor will then look for abnormal changes in the cells, and test the sample for strains of HPV most commonly linked to cervical cancer. You can have this testing done by itself or combine it with a Pap test during your well women visit.

Limit Partners. Another way to reduce your risk of contracting HPV is limiting your number of sex partners. Having many partners will increase your risk of HPV infection. You may think a condom will keep you safe, but it will not fully protect you from HPV. Condom use will reduce HPV transmission between partners, however, areas not covered by a condom can be infected by the virus.

Vaccines. There Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines to prevent HPV infections. Receiving an HPV vaccine reduces your risk of infection, however, these preventive vaccines will not cure an existing HPV infection. HPV vaccinations are safe and effective in preventing a lasting infection, and have also been shown to reduce precancerous lesions.

As stated, a vaccine can only prevent HPV infection, not cure an existing one. Therefore, it is recommended to get vaccinated before you become sexually active. People who are already sexually active and who may already be infected with HPV should talk with their doctor.

If you are experiencing symptoms, or feel you may be at risk for contracting cervical cancer due to HPV, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested. If you are the parents of tweens and teens you may want to consider vaccinating your children as a preventative measure before they become sexually active. If you have questions on HPV, cervical cancer or HPV vaccines, please contact Great Plains Women’s Health Center.

Past Posts

FAQ’s About PAP’s
Why Prenatal Care Is Important for You and Your Baby
UTI’s – Are You at Risk?
Staying Safe in the Summer Sun
Do I have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
Heart Health – Aging with grace and strength
HPV & Cervical Cancer
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Biotin (Vitamin B7) - May Interfere with Lab Tests
Overactive Bladder & Menopause
Breastfeeding Benefits for Moms
Adjusting to Life with a Newborn
Zika Virus – 2017 Update
What Are My Birth Control Options?
Date Rape – It’s Not Your Fault
Menopause: Symptoms & Solutions
Endometriosis – What Is It & What Are Your Options?
A Day In the Life Of An Anorexic
I had an abnormal pap smear what does this mean?
What is a hysterectomy?
Osteoporosis-Big word, bigger problem
End of the Year
Your Teen's Sex Life
It's a difficult topic-Sexual assault
After the baby
Stress and your health
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month
September Cancer Awareness Month
What is menopause?
Teen Eating Disorders


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