Receiving a diagnosis of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) can be distressing and overwhelming, but you’re far from alone in this experience. About 80% of women are diagnosed with HPV at some point, and about half of those are considered at high risk.
High-risk HPV can increase your chance of developing cervical cancer 一 another reason Pap smears and HPV testing are often done at the same time 一 so follow up after your diagnosis.
Our team of doctors and certified nurse midwives know that this news can be unsettling, but it's crucial to educate yourself about the condition, understand its implications, and take steps toward managing your health.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high-risk HPV, you may wonder what you need to do. Let’s take a look at your potential next steps and how our team at Westover Hills Women’s Health in San Antonio, Texas, can help.
What does high-risk HPV mean?
If you’re unfamiliar with HPV, your first step may be to familiarize yourself with this condition.
HPV is a group of viruses that can infect your skin and mucous membranes. There are over 100 types of HPV, and while most of them are harmless, some strains are considered high-risk due to their potential to cause certain types of cancers.
High-risk HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
What happens after you’ve been diagnosed with high-risk HPV?
After receiving a high-risk HPV diagnosis, you should follow up with appointments here at Westover Hills Women’s Health. During your appointment, we provide accurate information, answer your questions, and guide you through the next steps.
We may discuss various treatment options, recommend follow-up screenings, and address any concerns you may have. Open and honest communication with our team is vital to receiving the best care possible.
Explore your treatment options
Low-risk HPV doesn’t typically lead to abnormal cervical changes, and these infections usually clear up on their own within two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the other hand, high-risk HPV infections often require additional interventions depending on the severity of your infection and whether you have any abnormal cervical cells.
Your treatment options may include:
In some cases, monitoring the infection closely through regular screenings is the best path forward. We watch for any changes or progression of the disease. To support your immune system, you may also benefit from lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and practicing safe sex.
Procedures and interventions
If the high-risk HPV infection leads to the development of abnormal cells, you may benefit from procedures such as colposcopy, biopsy, or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove the abnormal tissue and reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.
Find emotional support
Receiving a diagnosis of high-risk HPV can trigger a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, or even guilt. Keep in mind, though, that HPV is a common infection, and many people have successfully managed their condition.
If needed, seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups who can provide understanding, guidance, and encouragement throughout your journey. Your diagnosis doesn’t define you, and with the right support and care, you can maintain a healthy life.
Prevention and vaccination
A high-risk HPV diagnosis can be distressing, but if you haven’t received a diagnosis, it’s best to focus on prevention moving forward.
The most effective way to prevent high-risk HPV infections is through vaccination. HPV vaccines are available and recommended for both males and females before the onset of sexual activity. Vaccines only work if you’re vaccinated before you’re infected.
You can reduce your risk of infection by practicing safe sex, insisting on wearing condoms or dams, and abstaining from intercourse if your partner has signs of any active sexually transmitted diseases.
Get the care you need for a high-risk HPV diagnosis
Remember, you’re not alone on this path. Get started with your follow-up care today by calling one of our San Antonio, Texas, offices. You can also use our online tool to book an appointment at either of our two locations.