What Problems Can HPV Cause?

Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist located in North Reading, MA

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What Problems Can HPV Cause?

If you don’t know about HPV and how it can endanger your health and life, now is the time to get informed. Here’s a valuable overview of this common virus, its threatening strains, and what to watch for.

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. 

The facts about HPV

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.

HPV health risks for women

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.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers (99% of all cases) in women worldwide. Each year, approximately 13,800 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

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.

How to prevent and treat HPV

The good news is that there are effective ways to prevent and treat HPV-related health issues, and Dr. Nayar can help.

Get an HPV vaccination

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.

Get regular screenings

Regular cervical cancer screenings — Pap smears and HPV tests — detect abnormal cells early before they turn into cancer. We recommend that all women start getting Pap tests at age 21.

Use a condom

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. 

Know your HPV treatment options

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.