- Posted by jdavis on August 1, 2011
What are the risk factors for developing cancer as a result of HPV?
- Having numerous sexual partners without using protection
- Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Suppression of the immune system due to some other cause, such as transplant or lack of follow-up for pap smears
What are possible symptoms of HPV?
- Most often there are no symptoms
- Warts on the genitals or anus which could appear several weeks, months or even years after sexual contact with a person with HPV
- Growths that are often flat and nearly invisible
How is HPV detected?
HPV is detected through a woman’s annual pap test. If pap test results show high-grade abnormal cell changes, a colposcopy and biopsy are recommended.
- Colposcopy is a procedure in which a lighted magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used to examine the vagina and cervix
- Biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue for diagnosis
There is currently no simple test to detect HPV in men, who typically do not show symptoms. That is why it is important to use a condom and limit the number of sexual partners.
How is HPV treated in women?
When doctors detect dysplasia (precancerous cells) through a pap test and confirm them by a colposcopy-directed biopsy, the HPV is treated with a procedure involving the removal of the outer portion of the cervix. This is an outpatient procedure with minimal risk. This procedure is called a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP).
Low-grade dysplasia may only need to be followed every few months, as it often goes away on its own. High-grade (moderate or severe dysplasia) is best managed by surgical removal, due to its tendency to progress to invasive disease.
What increases the chances of contracting dysplasia as a result of HPV itself?
- Beginning sexual intercourse at an early age, especially age 16 or younger, because changes to the cervix during adolescence mean more risk of exposure
- Having many sexual partners, because it increases the chance that a woman will be exposed to and develop an HPV infection in the cervix
- Contracting other sexually transmitted diseases
- Suppression of the immune system (from HIV or transplants)
Do condoms protect against HPV?
They do protect somewhat against HPV but they need to be used EVERY time. Also, as HPV warts can be external, exposure may not be prevented with a condom.
What research is being done to help prevent or treat HPV?
An HPV vaccine is being developed. Obstacles in vaccine development include the huge number of viral subtypes, as well as the likelihood of early exposure in young people and thus the probable need to vaccinate women and men at birth.
Doctors recommend yearly pap smears, good nutrition, condom use and avoidance of tobacco products.