• What Every Woman Should Know About HPV

    on Jun 27th, 2019

No one likes to think about sexually transmitted diseases, however, without accurate education about the human papillomavirus (HPV), you could find yourself confronting with even worse issues such as genital warts and even cancer. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

At Westover Hills Women’s Health in San Antonio, TX, Dr. Houmam Al-Hakeem provides treatment for a wide array of gynecological and obstetrical needs. He offers comprehensive physical exams, takes a thorough medical history, and conducts diagnostic tests and treatment in a warm, supportive and professional environment.

First the facts

HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection, includes more than 150 different viruses and affects almost 80 million Americans. While most often spread through vaginal or anal sex, HPV can also be transmitted via oral sex. Once you know the facts, it’s easy to see why HPV is so easily spread: HPV is contagious even when the infected individual is symptom-free, and infection can take years to show up after exposure.

In most instances, people never realize they are infected with HPV and it doesn't cause any symptoms or health problems. However, others develop genital warts, which typically appear as a bump or bumps in the genital area. These bumps may be large or small, flat or raised, or cauliflower-shaped. 

HPV can also lead to a number of different types of cancer — often years or decades after exposure. Types include cancer of the:

HPV can also result in oropharyngeal cancer, which appears at the back of the throat or at the base of the tongue and tonsils.

HPV Testing

HPV will infect most people at some point in their lives. It also usually goes away on its own. There is no HPV test approved for men. However, there is an HPV test for screening women, that’s typically only recommended for those age 30 and older. Women should have regular screenings and annual Pap smears to check for abnormal cell growth, which could lead to cervical cancer. 

HPV Treatment

If the Pap smear shows abnormal cell growth, Dr. Al-Hakeem may recommend a colposcopy or other testing to determine if it is the particular HPV strain that is associated with a greater risk of developing into cervical cancer. 

As with a Pap smear, a speculum is used to open the vagina. Next, a small amount of a painless vinegar solution is applied to the cervix to view the abnormal cells. The next step entails using the colposcope, a specialized microscope with a concentrated light, to access the area and take a biopsy. The specimen is sent to a lab for testing. Results are available within a couple of weeks. 

Treatments for strains that lead to warts or abnormal cells could include:

Prevention is the best medicine

The most effective prevention — next to abstinence — is vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all boys and girls get two HPV doses of the vaccine at age 11-12 to help protect against HPV-related cancers. 

If you weren't vaccinated as a child, you can receive a catch-up vaccination up to age 21.  Boys and men can receive a catch-up vaccination up to age 26. 

Using a latex condom every time during sex can lessen the transmission of HPV, though it won’t fully protect against it because some areas are not covered by the condom. Being in a mutually monogamous relationship also reduces — but doesn’t eliminate — your risk of infection.

For further information or testing for HPV, call the office or book an appointment online with Dr. Houmam Al-Hakeem at Westover Hills Women’s Health. 

 

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