What You Should Know About HPV

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 79 million young Americans in their teens and early twenties are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 forms of HPV, and some of them can cause genital warts as well as cancer of the cervix, anus, penis, and throat.

Many people never even know it when they have HPV because the immune system often takes care of the virus before it causes any issues. But it’s also possible to have the type of HPV that causes cancer without even knowing it, so Dr. Renan likes to keep patients informed about prevention and testing.

HPV and genital warts

Human papillomavirus causes all kinds of warts, such as common warts and plantar warts. Common and plantar warts occur when the wart virus enters into a crack or cut in the skin. But genital warts are caused by a different strain of HPV and they spread a little differently. They don’t need a cut or wound to enter the body. Instead, just the presence of bodily fluid can infect a person. So fluids shared around the vagina, anus, and mouth can spread the virus.

An infected person may not realize he or she has HPV until the genital warts are fairly large. This is especially concerning for pregnant women. They may not know they have HPV and could pass it on to their child during the birth process.

Treating genital warts

You can’t treat genital warts using over-the-counter medication because products designed for common warts and plantar warts are completely different than those needed for genital warts. Dr. Renan can prescribe a topical medication to treat genital warts or they can even be removed through a variety of procedures.

However, all treatments for genital warts simply treat the area. Currently, there is no medication to get rid of any type of HPV, even the type that causes cancer. That’s why Dr. Renan stress prevention.

Preventing HPV

Using a condom and dental dam for every sexual encounter can help prevent the spread of HPV. But you would have to use it correctly every time.

In recent years, an HPV vaccine has come onto the market that protects against the strains of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that children get vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12. To be fully protected, the child needs at least two shots six months apart. Older teens and young adults can also get vaccinated, but they will need three doses to protect against the cancer-causing HPV. If you didn’t receive the vaccine when you were a child, ask Dr. Renan if you’re still a candidate to receive it.

Testing goes a long way toward protecting against cervical cancer. You can be tested for HPV at your annual exam when you get your Pap smear. The Pap test looks for precancerous cells on your cervix while the HPV test checks for the virus that’s responsible for cellular changes that cause cervical cancer. It can take many years for HPV to develop into cancer, so it’s vital that every woman gets yearly checkups where Dr. Renan can perform testing to catch precancerous conditions before they progress.

If you have genital warts or are interested in HPV testing, give our office in Tarzana, California, a call, or click the “request appointment” button here on the website.

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