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Human Papillomavirus (HPV): What you need to know

What is HPV and why should you care?

Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in women and cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in women worldwide. There are two groups of HPV, low-risk causing genital warts and high-risk causing low to high grade cervical lesions, which progress to cervical cancers. Low-risk HPV types 6 and 11 are responsible for causing 95% of genital warts. High-risk HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for causing 70% cervical dysplasia and progression to cervical cancer. Although most HPV infections resolve spontaneously within two years, infections can persistand progress into cervical cancer within 10-20 years later.

How do you get it and what are the risk factors?

Genital contact is the leading risk for acquiring HPV. Although, having multiple sex partners, having sex at an early age and failure to use condoms consistently also increases the risk of acquiring infection with HPV.

HPV is transmitted through contact with infected genital skin or mucosa. Persons who become infected with HPV can either develop eruption of genital warts or low-high grade cervical intraepithelial lesions, or both.

Not only can HPV cause visible genital warts, but also dysplasia of cervical intraepithelial cells. It is important to understand that lesions can occur on external genitalia as well as in and around the cervical area, which can only be detected through regular pelvic examinations.

What can you do to prevent it?

Gardasil is an FDA approved vaccination that protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 and is approved for girls and women ages 9-26 and is given in a series of 3 vaccinations. Gardasil has been shown to prevent 100% of external vaginal lesions and up to 98% of cervical intraepithelial lesions leading to cervical cancer.

Gardasil HPV vaccine is most effective if given to girls before the onset of sexual activity.

 What is recommended?

The CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls at 11-12 years of age, with catch-up vaccination for girls 13-26 years of age. Even after vaccination, it is important to continue regular cervical screening though pap smear. The vaccine will not alter the course of pre-existing infections or treat any existing HPV-related disease. The use of Gardasil is also recommended for boys ages 9-18 in order to prevent HPV infection causing genital warts.

HPV is a serious infection, which can cause serious disease and progression to malignancy. Take control over your health and take the necessary measures to prevent exposure by vaccinating yourself and your children.

Please contact our office today for a consultation with Dr. Ross or Dr. Castro to vaccinate yourself and your children against HPV.

Author:

Nicole A. Ross, OMS-III

Nova Southeastern University – College of Osteopathic Medicine

Resource:

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP): http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1115/p1209.html

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