HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world, and most people infected with HPV aren’t aware that they have it. Out of the 100 plus types of HPV that exist, about 40 of these are transmitted through engaging in vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. Types of HPV are classified as high risk (possibly cancer-causing) and low risk (non-cancer-causing).
Discovered in the early 1940s, HPV was initially regarded as being largely benign. In the early 1980s HPV started to gain the attention of medical researchers and the professional medical community, more specifically gynecologists, when it was discovered that some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, which is the third most common form of cancer for women. In the United States alone, 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year.
What are your chances of contracting HPV?
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately twenty million Americans are currently infected with HPV and an additional 5.5 million – 6 million people will become infected during the next year. According to the CDC, a person who is sexually active has a 50% chance of becoming infected with genital HPV at some point during his or her life. Statistically, these new infections will occur mostly in people who are in their late teens and early 20s, but you can acquire a new HPV infection at any age.
HPV Early Detection
Since there is currently no cure for HPV, early detection of those strains which can cause cervical cancer is absolutely critical. Naturally, treating cervical cancer in its early stages (or better yet, before it develops) has a much higher success rate than cervical cancer detected in its later stages. Later stage detection can be deadly.
Pap Smear Test
Because early detection is the key to successful treatment of this deadly cancer, common gynecological standards suggest that starting at the age of 21 women receive regular pap smears. A pap smear can save your life by detecting cervical cancer in its earliest stages, or optimally, abnormal cells can be detected before they become cancerous.
The HPV Test Makes a Difference
A study by researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center reported that adding HPV testing to lifetime biennial pap smears can help prevent 225 cases of invasive cervical cancer per 100,000 women and can decrease cervical cancer mortality by an additional 59% over the use of a pap smear alone (Mandelblatt et al., JAMA, 5/8).
(http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/287/18/2372.full.pdf+html?sid=c470bbc9-8eb1-4d57-afec-47dec262fb63) The HPV test can be a useful adjunct to the pap smear in women over the age of 30.
At HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN in Monterey County, we can assist you in determining whether you need an HPV test as part of your routine pap smear.
HPV And Pap Smear: Educate Yourself
The gynecologists at Health Care For Women in Salinas, CA offer a variety of educational sources to help you learn about gynecology, pap smears, early detection and prevention. Since cervical cancer in its early stages produces no noticeable symptoms, without a pap smear, the cancer may go undetected until it is too late. At one time cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in the U.S. but that number is declining since regular pap smears and other gynecological testing has become routine.
In recent years, the development of vaccines against HPV (Gardasil and Cervarix) has given new hope that cervical cancer deaths will continue to decline. These vaccines are used by girls and young women, preferably before the onset of sexual activity and possible HPV exposure. Though they do not provide 100% protection, they reduce the risk of atypical cervical cells by up to 70%. At Health Care for Women, we are happy to discuss these vaccinations with you to help you make an informed choice about your health.
All sexually active women should educate themselves about HPV and cervical cancer risk factors, prevention and treatment. This information could be critical to your enjoying a happy, healthy, long life. Your ob-gyn is an excellent source of information about gynecology in general, obstetrics, pap smears and HPV testing.
To find out more about getting a pap smear test at Health Care for Women, your Monterey OBGYN, or for any other questions or concerns you may have concerning gynecology, obstetrics, HPV or general women’s healthcare, please call 831-758-8223, or visit the Health Care for Women website and get in contact today.