Protecting Yourself from HPV

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We’ve seen the commercials. We’ve seen the magazine ads. We may have even noticed the flyers posted at our doctor’s office. Awareness for HPV is all around us, and many are aware that it is a STI, but very few women fully understand what HPV is or how it may affect them.

What is HPV?

HPV is the human papillomavirus, and is actually the name of a group of over 150 related viruses. The virus gets its name from the warts, or papillomas, that form after contracting certain strands of HPV. Over 40 different of the 150 types of HPV can infect males and female genital areas. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and nearly all sexually active individuals will have HPV at some point in their lives.

How Can I Contract HPV?

HPV may spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Men and women may contract HPV through anal, oral, or vaginal sex, however, anal and vaginal sex are the most common ways in which HPV is spread. A woman does not have to have multiple sexual partners to contract HPV either. Having sex with one person puts a woman at risk for contracting HPV.

How Do I Know if I Have HPV?

HPV’s most obvious symptoms is genital warts; however, not all strains of HPV have visible signs or symptoms. In fact, some forms of HPV may not even prevent signs or symptoms until years after a first sexual encounter. The best way to know for sure whether or not you have HPV is by having clinical testing.

For women, having HPV can be particularly worrisome because it can result in cervical cancer. If you are worried you may have contracted HPV and may develop cervical cancer, consider having a more in depth test to determine if you have a type of HPV linked to cancer. HPV tests from Trovagene provide women with results that help them determine whether or not they have one of the 13 types of high risk HPV simply by providing a urine sample.

If a woman finds that she does have one of the more high risk strains of HPV, she can monitor her body more closely to catch cancer in the early stages should it develop. Women who catch cervical cancer in the early stages are more likely to succeed in treatment without facing sterility or a hysterectomy.

Is There a Cure for HPV?

No, there is currently no cure for HPV. The reason why there is currently no cure may be because HPV is a diverse virus. With over 150 related viruses in the HPV group, it makes it more difficult to create one cure. Currently, the best method to cure HPV is prevention.

How Do I Prevent Contracting HPV?

Because HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, it is fairly easy to contract. Not all strands of HPV result in genital warts or cervical cancer, but that doesn’t mean that those who are sexually active should not be worried about contracting HPV. To avoid HPV, women who are sexually active should always use protection and should be tested each time they become sexually active with a new partner. If possible, try to have your partner tested prior to becoming sexual active as well.

Women also have the option of having a HPV vaccine. This series of vaccines should be received prior to women turning 26, and is associated with a few risks as in any vaccine. Women who are interested in receiving the HPV vaccine should consult with their physician or OB/GYN to make sure they are not at an elevated risk for developing side effects to the vaccine.

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