HPV – What You Need To Know

Written by Suzy, RN at Advice & Aid

It is important to know how to prevent STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases, also known commonly as STI’s – sexually transmitted infections).

We asked a registered nurse to explain the causes, effects, and treatments of the common STD, human papilloma virus (better known as HPV). The following information was provided by this nurse and could benefit you or someone you know!

A true story
Some years ago I had a friend who died from cervical cancer. And she was young, not yet 40 years old. “How did this happen?” I asked myself. Her death happened before medical professionals knew that HPV (human papilloma virus) can cause cervical cancer. If she had been having routine exams of her cervix (Pap test), her death may have been prevented!

The facts
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US, probably because in many cases, a person infected with the virus may have NO SYMPTOMS. There are different types of HPV. The HPV virus that causes genital warts is not the same as the HPV subtype that causes cancer. However both viruses are related.

The infection is spread by having sex with someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, sexual organs, mouth and throat; depending on the type of sex. Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. HPV can go away on its own and not cause further health problems, but there is no way to know which people will develop cancer. Many cancers have few symptoms until the later stages.

What do I do?
A vaccine for HPV is available. All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years old are recommended to get vaccinated. Catch-up vaccines are also recommended for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. To prevent cervical cancer, a woman should have routine Pap tests and follow up as needed before cancer develops. If you are pregnant, your doctor should do this test as part of routine prenatal care. Pap tests and HPV testing is recommended for women at least every three years. These tests are done during a pelvic exam.

If you (or someone you know) suspects that you might have contracted an STD, you should be tested immediately.

Most doctor’s offices can provide testing, and at Advice & Aid, we can assist you in finding a doctor to perform these preventive tests.

Feel free to come talk to us first. We can talk through your symptoms, your needs & history, and help you plan a course of action. We have a registered nurse on staff at all times, and she can help you decide what is best for you.

Information is your greatest ally.

For more articles from Advice & Aid on STDs/STIs:
STD…It Might Hang Around Much Longer Than You Know
STD…Should My Partner Be Tested?
Avoiding An Embarrassing Condition

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