HPV in Cincinnati, OH
If you are among the millions of women infected with HPV, Crescent Women’s Medical Group, led by board-certified gynecologists (OB-GYN) Drs. Chandra Gravely and Cindy Hansel, is here to offer solutions. Our team of medical specialists provides state-of-the-art treatments for women’s health problems and screening for such STIs as HPV and its related conditions while providing state-of-the-art gynecologic and obstetric care for women in the Cincinnati and Blue Ash areas of Ohio.
What Is HPV?
HPV or human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) today. HPV is not the same virus as HIV or HSV (herpes), however, it may be present in combination with other viruses. HPV is so common that almost all sexually active adults contract this virus at some point in their lives. There are many different strains of HPV and different types of symptoms. Some types contribute to health problems, such as genital warts and cancer of the uterus or cervix. Fortunately, today vaccines exist that can prevent these health problems from happening.
How Is HPV Spread?
HPV may be spread via vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus but is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV may be transmitted to a sexual partner even when an infected person exhibits no signs or symptoms.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting HPV, even if you have only had sex with one person. Symptoms may also show up years after one is infected, making it extremely hard to know when the first infection actually happened.
Does HPV Cause Health Problems?
In many cases, HPV resolves itself and does not cause any major health problems; however in some cases, it can cause such problems as genital warts and cancer.
Genital warts typically appear as a small bump or group of bumps around the genital area. They may be small or large, raised or flat, or they may have a cauliflower shape. Genital warts may be easily diagnosed by looking at the genital area.
Does HPV Cause Cancer?
Certain strains of HPV may cause cervical and other cancers, including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It may also lead to cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. The strains of HPV that produce genital warts are not the same strains that cause cancer. In most cases, cancer may take years or even decades to develop after a person is infected with HPV.
It is impossible to know in advance which people infected with HPV will develop cancer or other health problems. Typically, patients with weak immune systems, such as individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, are at higher risk for developing health problems related to HPV.
How Can I Avoid HPV And The Health Problems It Can Cause?
There are several things you can do to safeguard your health and reduce your chances of contracting HPV.
Vaccines. HPV vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect males and females against diseases caused by HPV (including cancers) when administered in the recommended age groups. For more information on recommended age groups, please review “Who should get vaccinated?” below. HPV vaccines are administered in three injections over the course of six months; it is vital to receive all three doses in order to be fully protected.
Cervical cancer screenings. Regular screenings for cervical cancer in women aged 21 to 65 years old may help prevent cervical cancer and increase survival rates via early detection.
Women who are sexually active should take the following precautions against HPV and other STIs:
- The correct use of latex condoms during every sexual encounter does lower your chances of contracting HPV, however, the virus may still infect areas not protected by a condom.
- Reducing the number of sexual partners one has and, optimally, practicing mutual monogamy to reduce the incidence of possible exposure through new partners is also an effective way to dramatically reduce the likelihood of contracting HPV.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
Vaccination is recommended for all boys and girls ages 11 or 12.
For people who were not vaccinated at the recommended age, make-up vaccines are recommended for males up until age 21 and for females until age 26.
Gay and bisexual men or any man engaging in sex with other men may also be vaccinated up until age 26. The vaccine is also advisable through age 26 for young men and women with compromised immune systems, including those living with HIV/AIDS, if they were not fully vaccinated at the recommended age.
What is the GARDASIL® Vaccine?
GARDASIL® is a vaccine that helps protect individuals against four strains of HPV.
- GARDASIL® provides protection against two HPV strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and two other strains that cause approximately 90 percent of genital warts cases in girls and young women between the ages of nine and 26.
- GARDASIL® helps protect boys and young men ages nine to 26 against the strains that cause approximately 90 percent of genital warts cases.
- GARDASIL® also helps protect girls and young women ages nine to 26 against HPV strains that cause approximately 70 percent of vaginal cancer cases and may cause up to 50 percent of cases of vulvar cancer.
- GARDASIL® also helps protect males and females ages nine to 26 against HPV strains responsible for about 80 percent of anal cancer cases.
GARDASIL® may not fully protect everyone. It does not protect against other diseases that may be caused by other strains of HPV or diseases that may be caused by other STIs. GARDASIL® will not protect against all types of cervical cancer, only those caused by specific HPV strains. This means that future cervical cancer screenings will still be important to remain fully protected. GARDASIL® is not a treatment for existing cases of cancer or genital warts.
As with other vaccines administered to children, GARDASIL® works best if administered before the individual has had any contact with the actual virus. The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys as young as nine years of age.
How Do I Know If I Have HPV?
There is no existing federally-approved test to determine whether someone is infected with HPV, nor any approved method for detecting HPV in the mouth or throat.
There are HPV tests that may be used to screen for cervical cancer and these are recommended for screening only in women over the age of 30. These tests are not suitable for use on men, adolescents or women under age 30.
Most people infected with HPV are unaware that they are infected and many never develop symptoms or health problems from it. Many people realize they have contracted HPV when they get genital warts. In women, an abnormal Pap test result during cervical cancer screening may indicate the presence of HPV. In some patients, the virus may go entirely undetected until the individual develops a more serious condition, such as cancer.
How Common Is HPV and The Health Problems Caused By HPV?
Approximately 79 million people are currently infected with HPV in the United States, with an additional 14 million new infections yearly. HPV is so common that most sexually active adults will contract at least one HPV strain at some point in their lives, even if they never experience symptoms.
Genital warts and cervical cancer are the two conditions most commonly associated with HPV infection. In the United States, every year approximately 360,000 individuals get genital warts, and over 11,000 women develop cervical cancer.
I’m pregnant. Will having HPV affect my pregnancy?
Pregnant women infected with HPV may get genital warts or they may develop abnormal cells on the cervix, which may be detected via routine cervical cancer screening. Routine cervical cancer screening is important to continue even during pregnancy.
Can I Be Treated For HPV Or Health Problems Caused By HPV?
At this time, there is no approved treatment to eliminate the virus, however, there are treatments that address the health problems caused by HPV:
- Genital warts are easily treatable; however, untreated genital warts may disappear on their own, remain the same or grow in size and/or number.
- Cervical pre-cancerous conditions are treatable. Women who receive routine cancer screening Pap tests and follow-up care as recommended are able to detect, identify and treat dangerous pre-cancerous conditions before cancer develops. Prevention is always safer and more effective than treatment.
- Other forms of HPV-related cancers may also be more effectively treated if diagnosed and addressed early.
Excellence in gynecologic and obstetrical care is our specialty at Crescent Women’s Medical Group, serving patients in the Cincinnati and Blue Ash areas of Ohio. Our team of specialists provides solutions and treatments for a variety of women’s medical conditions including HPV infection and other conditions associated with HPV.