HPV Testing For Peace Of Mind
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections have become very common among sexually active adults. Both genders will typically get one type of the virus during their lifetime and most won’t even know they have it.
With 79 percent of adults already infected with HPV1, it is becoming harder each day to NOT contract the virus, making it even more important than ever to visit your gynecologist for testing.
Bare in mind that women with HPV rarely develop any symptoms, the only way to know for sure is by having your gynecologist perform an HPV test.
What is HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It causes changes in cells that can be detected when examined and analyzed under a microscope.
There are approximately 150 types of HPV, about 30 of which affect the genitals.
Only one strain of HPV is responsible for genital warts and 14 other strains are considered “high risk” that can result in cervical cancer over time.
Why You Should Be Tested
Early detection of HPV is critical. To that effect, Dr. Cook will test for HPV at the same time you have a Pap smear.
HPV is one of the most common infections for women in their 20s and the vaccine is recommended if you’re a woman through the age of 26.
If you’re sexually active, you should be tested. HPV can be transmitted through:
- Touching the skin of someone with HPV
- Sexual contact that includes vaginal, anal and oral sex
Most HPV infections are self-limiting, disappear on their own within two years, and do not cause cancer. Neither do they exhibit any symptoms.
HPV can lie dormant in the body for years and without testing, you’ll never know you have the virus.
HPV & Cervical Cancer
Some HPV strains cause changes in cervical cells. It’s a condition called cervical dysplasia and if left untreated it can lead to cancer.
However, it’s critical to understand that having an HPV infection is not an indication of cancer and it does not automatically mean you will develop cancer.
The HPV test and Pap smear are early detection tools that enable your gynecologist to identify if you have the virus, monitor your situation appropriately and determine how often you should receive screenings in the future.
An HPV test is performed by collecting a sample of cells from the cervix in the same way as a Pap smear test is done. There are several tests that can be utilized singly or in combination to diagnose HPV. They include:
- HPV test – cells are removed from the cervix and examined for any changes or abnormalities, it’s the most common type of test, and performed at the same time as your gynecologist does a Pap smear
- Colposcopy – a vinegar solution is placed in the cervix and a colposcope is used to view the cells for changes in color that can indicate an infection, typically used if your Pap test shows abnormalities in your cervical cells
- HPV DNA test – directly examines your genetic material to detect the HPV strain associated with cervical cancer
Few women require any treatment for HPV, however, Dr. Cook will closely monitor your Pap smears and HPV tests for any further changes to the cervical cells during your regularly scheduled wellness appointments.
Abstinence is the most reliable method for preventing genital HPV infection. Having one partner only also reduces the chances of infection.
If you are sexually active or want to start having sex, the best way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated, preferably before you become sexually active.
Regular Pap smears and HPV testing are an essential part of your regular health and wellness regimen throughout your lifetime.
When used in conjunction, the tests are an easy, safe and highly effective way to detect any changes in cells that might indicate the potential for a cancerous or precancerous condition.
If any unusual activity is detected, Dr. Cook will work closely with you to monitor the condition and take any appropriate steps needed to preserve your health.
For same day appointments please call us at (770) 431-2322. We make every effort to respond to your request right away during regular business hours.