You’ve probably heard about human papillomavirus, or HPV. But how well do you understand the facts about this sexually transmitted infection?
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, our team of experienced providers believes everyone should educate themselves about HPV. To help bring you up to speed on this important topic, we take a look at some common myths about HPV and share the facts everyone should know.
Fact: HPV spreads through sexual contact. HPV is the name for a large group of viruses that spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can even spread by touching an infected person’s genitals, and a woman can possibly transmit it to her baby during childbirth.
Fact: HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Believe it or not, about 80% of women get some kind of HPV infection at some point in their lives. Anyone can be infected with HPV, whether you’re gay, straight, or bisexual.
Fact: Most often, HPV presents no symptoms — you can have it without knowing it. However, it may also cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain. HPV can also cause warts in your genital area. These warts can be any size and may be raised, flat, or bumpy. In rare cases, HPV can cause warts in your respiratory tract.
Fact: HPV can cause cancer. The infection usually goes away on its own without causing any health problems. However, when HPV remains in your body, it could lead to the development of several kinds of cancer in women and men, including cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, vagina, vulva, throat, tongue, and tonsils.
Fact: Testing can identify the presence of HPV and can also look for precancerous changes caused by HPV. The type of testing you receive, and how often you should be tested, depends on several factors, including your age, your sexual history, and your personal health history.
The Pap test checks the cervix for abnormal cells that could become cancerous over time. You need routine Pap tests even if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you’re post-menopausal, or if you’re not sexually active.
It’s important to have the testing your doctor recommends so that if you do have HPV-related health issues, they can be caught early and treated.
Fact: Condoms aren’t foolproof. Although condoms do offer significant protection from HPV, you could still get HPV from another person even if you use a condom with every sexual encounter. Other ways to protect yourself include being monogamous or limiting your number of sex partners and getting the HPV vaccine.
Fact: The HPV vaccine helps prevent HPV infection, but the vaccine doesn’t treat HPV. It’s best to have the vaccine around age 11-13, or at least before you turn 26. Ideally, get it before you become sexually active. To be fully protected, you need a series of two shots administered 6-12 months apart or three shots spread out over six months.
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, we offer a full range of testing, diagnosis, and treatment services for HPV, other sexually transmitted infections, and all women’s health concerns. Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our locations in Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia.