Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country. HPV spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and it’s so common that nearly everyone who’s sexually active gets it at some point.
Most types of HPV go away on their own. But certain strains of the virus are linked to cancers of the anus, cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and throat. In fact, about 95% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.
Receiving an HPV diagnosis can be scary, but it doesn’t mean cervical cancer is inevitable. Our team at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta provides sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing and care for teens and adults.
If you’ve been diagnosed with HPV, it’s important to understand what your diagnosis means for your health — now and in the future.
HPV signs and symptoms
More than 100 known types of HPV exist in the world today. Most types don’t cause obvious symptoms. Many people never know they have the virus, and it’s very easy to spread it unintentionally.
A few types of HPV cause genital warts. These warts appear on the skin around your genitals and/or anus. Genital warts are common; about 360,000 people get them each year.
Other types of HPV can cause cancer. Unfortunately, these types usually don’t cause genital warts or any other noticeable symptoms at first. In fact, cervical cancer can take 20 years or longer to develop after HPV infection.
That means preventive care (like HPV vaccination) and Pap smears are the best ways to protect your health.
If you’re sexually active and you haven’t received HPV vaccination, talk to our team about getting tested. We’ll review your medical history, your lifestyle, and other factors to help determine your risk of HPV and related complications.
We can often diagnose genital warts with a visual exam. These warts may be flat or raised, large or small. Sometimes, the warts look like cauliflower.
It’s common to receive an HPV diagnosis only after getting abnormal Pap smear results. Regular Pap smears are the best way to screen for changes that could indicate HPV or a related cancer.
We take a sample of cells from your cervix and look for precancerous changes. If results are abnormal, additional testing is necessary.
Abnormal results don’t automatically mean you have cancer. We can use a cervical HPV test to determine if you have one of the types of HPV that causes cervical cancer, or do other testing to identify cancer.