What Every Woman Should Know About HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Although there are about 100 different forms that can affect your body, about 30 of those strains are spread through sexual contact and can affect your vulva, vagina, anus, cervix, and rectum. Of those 30 that affect your genitalia, about 14 of them can cause cancer.

At Women First GYN in Chesapeake, Virginia, our skilled OB/GYN, Margie Corney, MD, FACOG, offers comprehensive testing for sexually transmitted diseases like HPV. She’s passionate about STD education and prevention and shares a few things you should know about HPV. 

HPV is quite common

HPV is so common that about 80% of all sexually active people will get the virus at some point, although they may not know they have it. This year, 14 million people are predicted to get HPV, adding to the nearly 80 million who currently have it.  

You don’t have to have intercourse to get HPV

Even though it’s most often spread through anal or vaginal intercourse, HPV can and often is transmitted through oral sex. Because HPV often doesn’t have any symptoms, it can be passed between partners unknowingly. It’s critical that you protect yourself with a condom or dental dam when you have sexual contact with an untested partner. 

You may not experience any HPV symptoms

While HPV can cause genital warts, the dangerous strains may not cause any symptoms. Regular checkups and routine Pap smears can help Dr. Corney keep a close eye on any suspicious cell changes that may be precancerous.

There’s a vaccine for HPV

The makers of Gardasil® and Cervarix® developed a vaccine to help prevent HPV and cervical cancer. At Women First GYN, Dr. Corney provides the vaccine for girls at age 11 or 12. Women who didn’t get the vaccine when they were younger can still receive it.

Having HPV doesn’t mean you’ll have cancer

Almost all cervical cancer is linked to two strains of HPV — 16 and 18. There are many strains that aren’t high-risk and don’t lead to cancer. Most HPV infections clear up on their own within a couple of years. 

Dr. Corney follows the guidelines offered by The American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that recommends women between 30 and 65 should have a Pap smear in conjunction with an HPV test every five years.

To learn more about HPV and your risks for developing it, to learn if you are eligible for an HPV vaccination, or to schedule a screening, call the office or request an appointment online.

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