If you’ve heard of human papillomavirus (HPV) but don’t understand what it can do to your body, you’re in a risky position.
Knowing about HPV can save your health and your life, so Dr. Anju Nayar and our dedicated team at Nova Women’s Health are here to explain this common but complicated virus so you can protect yourself from potential problems.
HPV is a group of more than 200 related viruses that both men and women can contract. It’s so common, in fact, that nearly all sexually active people will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives — to the tune of 42.5 million in the United States alone.
It’s spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, usually during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. While many types of HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own, some can lead to health problems like genital and common warts and cancer.
For women, the most serious health problem caused by HPV is cervical cancer, but it doesn't stop there. HPV can also cause vaginal and vulvar cancers.
While less common, HPV can also lead to vaginal and vulvar cancers. About 75% of vaginal cancers and 50% of vulvar cancers are linked to HPV.
The good news is that there are effective ways to prevent and treat HPV-related health issues, and Dr. Nayar can help.
One of the best ways to prevent HPV is through vaccination. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and can protect against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
If you’re concerned about contracting HPV, using a condom during intercourse can decrease your chances. Condoms provide a barrier that not only prevents pregnancy but also eliminates skin-to-skin contact, which lowers the likelihood of passing the virus between partners.
While there’s no cure for the HPV virus itself, treatments are available for the health problems that HPV can cause, such as warts, precancerous changes in your cervix, and cancers.
Dr. Nayar recommends appropriate treatments based on your symptoms, which HPV strain you’ve contracted, and the stage of your condition. For example, HPV-related genital warts typically respond well to prescription medication.
However, if a cervical biopsy shows you have cervical cancer, you’ll need a more assertive approach. Dr. Nayar performs minimally invasive surgery to remove some cancers, but you may also need complementary treatments, like radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
Don’t be in the dark about HPV — schedule a Pap smear and HPV test today. Book online or call Nova Women’s Health in North Reading, Massachusetts.