According to the American Sexual Health Association, as many as 79 million Americans are currently infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV. Screening and treatment are available through the comprehensive services of Anita Chait, MD, FACOG, at Women’s Laser Center & OB/GYN of New Jersey in Ramsey, New Jersey. To learn more about HPV screenings and other sexually transmitted diseases, schedule an appointment online or by phone today.
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the name used for a group of related viruses. Researchers believe there are between 100 and 200 different types of HPV, but only some affect the genitals. Some of those types cause genital warts, while others cause cervical cancer.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, which is why screening and prevention are so important. Not all HPV infections create symptoms, so you can have the virus and spread it to others without knowing.
It’s believed that nearly 80% of Americans will contract a form of HPV at one point in their lives. Your body can fight off many types of HPV, and some appear to be harmless. Both men and women can have HPV. In addition to cervical cancer, the virus can cause cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis, throat, tongue, and tonsils.
Abstaining from all forms of sexual contact is the only way to fully protect against HPV. remaining in a mutually monogamous relationship in which both partners have been tested for HPV also offers a high degree of protection.
For women who are sexually active, reducing the number of sex partners and using male or female condoms can lower your risk. Dental dams can prevent contracting the disease during oral sex. It’s important to understand, however, that HPV can spread from simple skin-to-skin contact, so completely eliminating all risk is virtually impossible.
Vaccination is a great way to protect against HPV. There are now several vaccinations available, and being vaccinated early is the best way to protect yourself. Parents are advised to have their children vaccinated before puberty so they can develop immunity prior to sexual activity.
Adults can also be vaccinated, which greatly reduces the risk of contracting HPV. As more and more people become vaccinated, the rates of cervical and other HPV-related cancers are expected to steeply decline.
If the screening shows signs of HPV, Dr. Chait will advise you on treatment options. There is no cure for HPV, but symptoms can be managed and steps can be taken to preserve your health.
If your infection leads to genital warts there are ways to remove warts and reduce discomfort. Medications, freezing, electrocautery, lasers, and surgical excision are all options.
For women who have a type of HPV linked to cervical cancer, additional screening is required to check for precancerous cervical changes. If those changes are detected, the abnormal cells can be removed, which prevents cervical cancer from developing.
If you’d like to learn more or receive screening for HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases, schedule an appointment with Dr. Chait today, online or over the phone.