HPV, or human papillomavirus, infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Many strains of the virus exist, some of which can cause cervical cancer. The team of expert OB/GYNs at South Sound Women’s Center in Olympia, Washington, offer testing for HPV and cervical cancer and offer vaccines to protect you from the ubiquitous virus. Call the office or use the online booking agent to make an appointment to be screened for and treated, if necessary, for HPV.
HPV has many different strains, about 40 of which affect the genitals. You acquire an HPV infection through sexual contact with someone who has an infection.
If you’ve ever been sexually active, you’re at risk of HPV. Your chances of developing an HPV infection rises if you have multiple partners or have sex with someone who has multiple partners. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex all put you at risk of HPV.
Many cases of HPV cause no symptoms. You only know you have an infection by getting tested.
Genital warts are one symptom you might notice. You may have just one, or several, and they can vary in size, shape, and color. You might see or feel them as flat or raised, bumpy or smooth, and pink or flesh-colored.
If you do develop warts, they don’t necessarily show up immediately after you’ve had a sexual encounter with an infected person. You might not notice them for several weeks, or even years, afterward. And, since HPV often has no symptoms, your partner may not know of their own infection.
Genital warts definitely give you the diagnosis of HPV; otherwise, the virus isn’t generally tested for in healthy women. HPV often goes away on its own in a year or two with no long-term effects on your health. Some HPV strains can persist and lead to cellular changes in your cervix that may become cancerous.
Regular Pap tests help diagnose these cellular changes. Often, irregular cells go away on their own, so you may be monitored for a period of time. But, in some cases, the team at South Sound Women’s Center may order further testing to ensure you don’t have cervical cancer. Cervical cancer has the best chance of successful treatment when caught early.
HPV vaccines, under the name brand of Gardasil, protect you against the two types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases. They also protect you from the strains of HPV that cause 90% of the instances of genital warts.
If you’re between the ages of 9 and 26, you’re eligible for the vaccine. It’s often given to children at age 11 or 12 so they’re protected before they become sexually active.
HPV is extremely common and has the potential to cause genital warts and cancer. Get tested and screened to avoid these complications.