An estimated 79 million Americans have human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. About 14 million people are newly infected with HPV each year, and most men and women will contract it at some point in their lifetimes.
Most of the time, HPV goes away on its own without causing symptoms. Your immune system may fight off the infection, and you might never know you had it. But sometimes HPV doesn’t go away — and it can lead to serious health complications, including cancer.
Protecting yourself starts with getting the HPV vaccination if you’re under the age of 26 and getting regular STD testing to identify any infections early.
Our gynecology team at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta in Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia, specializes in HPV prevention and STD testing, and we’re here to help you learn more about symptoms and what to do if you think you’ve been exposed.
Most people with HPV infections don’t have noticeable symptoms, so you shouldn’t wait until you notice symptoms to get tested. If you think you might have contracted an STD, schedule an STD screening at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta. Early identification can help prevent complications like cancer.
If HPV goes undetected and your immune system doesn’t fight it off, the infection can cause symptoms. Three telltale symptoms of HPV in women are:
Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, which are small growths on your skin. Genital warts may look like flat lesions, raised protrusions with stems, or cauliflower-like bumps.
Genital warts most often develop on the vulva. They may also appear near the anus, on the cervix, or inside the vagina. Genital warts are painless most of the time, but they can be itchy or tender.
Pelvic pain is very common in women, and it has many possible causes. But if you experience pelvic pain and you have an HPV infection, it could be a warning sign of cancer.
The pain may feel like a general, constant ache, or it may worsen during sexual intercourse. Even if pelvic pain is occasional, you should never ignore it — visiting the gynecologist is the only way to diagnose the cause and find treatment to preserve your health.
Changes in your menstrual cycle or unusual vaginal discharge could also indicate cancer caused by HPV. Schedule a gynecology appointment if you notice:
Along with abnormal vaginal bleeding, you might experience unusual vaginal discharge between periods. This discharge may appear watery or bloody, and it may have a foul odor.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. While there’s no cure for the HPV virus itself, there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk of cancer and other health complications.
Our team recommends Gardasil®, an FDA-approved HPV vaccine, for all preteen girls and boys. If you didn’t get the vaccine as a preteen, you can still get it until the age of 26.
All women should get regular Pap smears, because this screening is the best way to identify cervical precancer and cancer. The earlier cancerous growths are detected, the more effective your treatment will be.
HPV is common, but you don’t have to let it compromise your health. Contact us to schedule an HPV consultation at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta.