What is HPV?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus affecting an estimated 20 million Americans. Most have no symptoms and healthy persons clear this virus on their own. The virus has over 30 strains that are transmitted sexually. One particular strain, 11, causes genital warts and types 16 and 18 are the most common types linked to cervical cancer.
Who Gets Screened?
The Pap smear/test screens for cellular changes on the cervix that if left untreated might lead to cervical cancer. The HPVtest is performed during a Pap test and checks for the HPV virus. Due to the ability of the body to clear HPV, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) states that screening should begin at age 30.
In January of 2012, new screening guidelines were published by The American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) recommending that a young woman get her first Pap test when she turns 21 and continue having one every two years until age 30. Women age 30 and older who have three consecutive negative Pap test results may be screened once every three years. Women who have HIV, are immunosuppressed, were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero, or have been previously treated for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2, CIN 3, or cervical cancer, may need more frequent screening. Depending on their Pap testresult history, women ages 65 and older may discontinue Pap testing altogether. Routine Pap tests should be discontinued for women who have had a total hysterectomy for noncancerous reasons provided they do not have a history of high-grade CIN (cervical cancer).
What is the Treatment?
Many abnormal Pap tests are caused by infection and not by cancer cells. The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) has specific guidelines for the treatment of abnormal pap smears, including ones which identify the HPVvirus and your provider may perform a colposcopy to identify your risk for cervical cancer. A colposcopy is a procedure using a special magnifying device to look at cells in the vulva, vagina, and cervix. If needed, a small sample of tissue can be taken and sent to a lab for microscopic evaluation
The best ways to prevent HPVtransmission are being monogamous, practicing safe sex, and having periodic Pap tests. Two vaccines (Gardisil and Cervarix) for girls, boys, young men and women ages 9 to 26 are now available to protect against types 6,11, 16, & 18 of HPV. In order to provide the maximum protection from HPV, the vaccines need to be given prior to being sexually active. Talk to your practitioner or leave a comment for further questions on HPV.