What Every Woman Should Know About HPV

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is actually a group of viruses that includes more than 100 types. More than 40 kinds of HPV can be transmitted through sexual activity, and while it can be asymptomatic and cause no damage, it can lead to serious complications if it lingers.

To learn more about HPV or your own gynecological health, request an appointment with Capital Women's Care.

HPV is very common

If you have HPV, you’re far from alone. Roughly 80% of women acquire at least one type of the infection at some point. This makes HPV the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, affecting more people than other prevalent STIs such as herpes.

You can have HPV without realizing it

Because HPV typically causes no noticeable symptoms, many women have the infection without realizing it. You may never even find out you’ve had it, seeing as HPV often goes away on its own without causing any health issues.

You can acquire HPV in multiple ways

Many people assume that STIs such as HPV are only passed through intercourse or if your partner ejaculates. In fact, you can acquire or pass on HPV in multiple ways, including:

HPV may cause issues during pregnancy

You can become pregnant when you have HPV, but the infection may have effects on you or your baby, such as:

Additionally, if your baby acquires the STI from you, they can develop called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis — a rare but potentially serious condition involving growths in the airways.

HPV can lead to cancer

If you have HPV and, like most cases, it goes away on its own, you don’t need to worry about related cancer. If it does carry on, however, it can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, throat, or tongue.

Because HPV is not curable, it’s important to catch any early signs of cancer and get routine Pap tests and physicals so you and your doctor can understand your risk factors for HPV complications and detect any signs of cancer.

You can lower your risk for HPV-related health problems

There are several ways to guard against complications of HPV, including:

An abnormal Pap test doesn’t mean you have cancer

Learning that your Pap test results showed abnormalities can feel scary, seeing as the test checks for cervical cancer. But most often, abnormal results merely indicate changes in cells within your cervix caused by HPV.

Your doctor can monitor these changes closely until they either revert to normal or require treatment. Routine Pap tests and getting any needed treatment prevent most types of cervical cancer.

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