What Every Woman Should Know About HPV

Cervical cancer is a scary thought for any woman. The human papillomavirus (HPV), which is linked to certain types of cervical cancers and diseases is easily detected with routine Pap smears and gynecological exams. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and the perfect opportunity to become educated about how you can protect yourself. Here are five things every woman should know about HPV, because prevention is your best defense.

What Every Woman Should Know About HPV

The words “cervical cancer” are among the scariest diagnoses a woman may ever hear in her lifetime, but you don’t have to become one of the statistics. In most cases, with regular gynecological exams, abnormal cells and the human papillomavirus (HPV), which sometimes lead to cervical cancer, are both easily detected.

When you know what precautions to take, you can easily prevent HPV and cervical diseases. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and here are five things Dr. Jehuda Renan, OB-GYN & Infertility Specialist in Tarzana, California wants every woman to know about HPV.

1. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, but it doesn’t commonly lead to cancer.

If you’ve had sex, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to HPV at one time or another. The number is a bit staggering – 79 million Americans, mostly in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. Although that number sounds quite alarming, thankfully, it doesn’t mean all these men and women are destined to get any kind of HPV-related cancer, including cervical.

There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and only about 12 of them are associated with cervical disease that may or may not lead to cancer.

2. Your best defense against HPV turning into cancer is regular Pap tests.

Dr. Renan performs regularly scheduled Pap tests during your gynecological exams, which, according to the The American Cancer Society, is once every three years for women ages 21 to 65. If any abnormal cells appear on your Pap test results, Dr. Renan monitors these cells for any significant changes.

In most cases, your immune system eliminates these abnormalities on its own, and there’s no cause for concern. These types of cells are not considered precancerous. And, since it typically takes between 10 and 15 years for cervical cancer to develop from abnormalities that become lesions that sometimes lead to cancer, early detection is your best defense.

3. HPV can cause throat cancer.

Although most people are unaware of this danger, it’s possible to spread the HPV virus through oral sex. If you contract HPV through oral sex, and the infection settles in your throat, you run the risk of developing throat cancer. Women can get this type of cancer, but it’s more prevalent among heterosexual men.

Because there is no way to test for HPV in your throat, like there is in you cervix, getting vaccinated against HPV is the best way to prevent this type of throat cancer.

4. There is currently no treatment for the HPV virus, but you can treat the diseases it causes.

It always sounds serious when your gynecologist says, there’s no way to treat your condition, but HPV is different. Since most of the time the virus goes away when your immune system fights it off, there’s no reason to worry about treating it. If HPV actually causes changes to the cells in your cervix, or genital warts to appear (a common symptom of HPV), Dr. Renan can explain and provide available treatment options. Yet another reason it’s so important to have regular gynecological exams.

5. The HPV vaccine can save your life.

The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent serious, life-threatening cancers that are linked to the virus. A preventive vaccine helps your body’s immune system recognize and ward off the infection. Once you eliminate the virus, you significantly decrease your risk of developing HPV-related diseases and cancers. And, that means the HPV vaccine can make a lifesaving difference.

It’s safe for girls and boys as young as 11 years old to get the HPV vaccine, and for men up to age 21 and women through age 26. The intent is that you receive the vaccine before you become sexually active, to prevent your body from being susceptible.

If it’s been awhile since your last gynecological exam and Pap smear, or you want to learn more about the HPV vaccine, schedule an appointment with Dr. Renan by calling the Tarzana office, or using our online booking system. It could save your life.

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