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HPV stands for the human papillomavirus. It is a very common virus comprised of over 150 different strains, more than 40 of which are known to affect the human reproductive system. What you need to understand about the human papillomavirus is that many individuals are asymptomatic when they have the virus, meaning that they can carry it and never show symptoms. In fact, as many as 79 million men and women around the world are infected at any given time. All strains are transmitted through skin to skin contact though many are relatively benign.


Two strains of HPV, strains 6 and 11, have been shown to cause genital warts. This is an STI that is characterized by bumps or protrusions that can vary in color, shape, and size. Their main defining characteristic is the location in which they can be found. Both men and women can show signs of genital warts and they can be found on the vulva, vagina, and cervix for women. Both men and women can show signs of genital warts on their groins as well.


While genital warts come from low risk strains of HPV, there are many other identified high risk strains that can lead to cancer. Probably most well know are strains 16 and 18. These strains have a proven association as a cause of cervical cancer. Many men can be carriers for these strains and show no symptoms while passing the virus onto their sexual partners who could be susceptible. HPV does not immediately turn into cancer, as it causes slow growth changes. In fact, many women are able to successfully fight off the infection or take intermediate steps to remove abnormal cell growth from the cervix. The only way to know if you’re positive for HPV and at risk for cervical cancer is through yearly pap smear screenings to evaluate the health of your cervix. Adolescent women have an advantage these days as a HPV vaccine is available on the market that targets the most aggressive strains. If they receive the vaccine before they are sexually active, the chances of them even having cervical cancer diminish greatly. 
Your annual exam with our Women to Women Ob/Gyns is the first and most important step you can take to get ahead of HPV. The pap smear will provide you with results on the health of your cervix and whether or not you are HPV positive. This will then lead the doctors to a protocol where, if you have abnormal or atypical cells, you will need to be checked every six months with the potential for a biopsy. The process that is followed when a pap smear identifies abnormal or atypical cells involves a colposcopy and biopsy. Depending on the results of these procedures, your doctor will decide the next steps and whether it is necessary to go to cryotherapy or LEEP procedures. Luckily, cervical cancer due to HPV can be caught and treated very early. Women who are most susceptible to HPV and cervical cancer are in their 20s and early 30s. That’s why it is essential to have your annual exam with a local gynecologist and Women to Women would be delighted to be your Ob/Gyn of choice.  

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