HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a virus that is spread through skin to skin contact and can cause warts in different parts of the body. It is also the most common Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Eighty percent of women have HPV and it is so prevalent because even if you are wearing a condom during sexual intercourse, although less likely, you can still transmit it. In this episode, Madge the Vag is going to transmit all the information she can from expert and gynecologist Dr. Lilly Hanna to you.
So, how do you know if you have HPV? There are no symptoms, but it is tested through a pap smear. However, within the pap smear, there is a specific test for HPV. Women under thirty years of age are not routinely tested for HPV unless they have an abnormal pap smear. After age 30, everyone gets tested for HPV because your cervical tissue isn’t turning over as much as when you were in your 20s or teens, so you’re more likely to hold on to that HPV like it’s your new long lost pal. The longer your new pal sticks around, the greater the risk of disease. Sounds like your new friend, HPV, shouldn’t overstay its welcome!
So, what’s the harm? HPV can lead to cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer to name a few. However, if this should happen, there are surgical procedures that can remove the diseased tissue. Cancer is a worst case scenario. Oftentimes HPV can go away on its own. It’s been compared to your vagina having a cold — if you hear a weird noise down there, maybe it’s just your vagina sneezing.
So, what should you do? Although there is no cure for HPV, there is a vaccine for it, which can be administered as early as eleven years old. Women can get the HPV vaccine up to about 45 years of age.
Luckily with over a 100 strains of HPV out there most of them are not cancerous. However, since it is common to contract it, it’s important to get regular checkups and pap smears at your gynecologist so that if you do have a cancerous strain, you can take care of it.
If you’re considering getting the vaccine or having your child get it, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. As always, if you have any questions or comments, email Madge the Vag at [email protected]
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