HPV is a common infection that can easily spread through skin-to-skin contact most particularly sexual contact. HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are around 100 different kinds of HPV which can cause problems ranging from genital warts to more serious problems such as cancer of the cervix, the vagina, the vulva, or even the anus. These serious problems are mostly caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18.
Women who are sexually active are more disposed to be infected with genital warts and cancer of the cervix or the vagina or the vulva. These are the risks of getting infected with HPV unless there are early prevention and detection.
As mentioned, some strains of HPV can cause cancer. These strains are also called high-risk HPV types. These certain strains trigger changes in the cells of the cervix which can cause cervical dysplasia. Now if untreated, cervical dysplasia can develop to cervical cancer. However, there are still chances that even with HPV or cervical dysplasia, a woman can be free of cancer.
To help with the prevention and detection against cervical cancer, the best protection women have is to take regular Pap Tests. This test helps in detecting pre-cancerous changes in the cervical area. If there is early detection of the precancerous stage, then this can be treated before cancer develops.
It is extremely recommended for women to have a Pap smear screening at the age of 21 to 65, every 3 years after that or unless recommended by the physician to be taken every year because of certain possibilities of the pre-cancerous strain.
However, a Pap test is not an HPV test. A Pap test does not detect HPV. They are different. Women also need to get an HPV test to check if the virus is present and can cause abnormal cells which can indicate and lead to cervical cancer. This test can detect what HPV Type is connected to cervical cancer.
Pap tests can give results of – Normal, Unclear and Abnormal.
Normal means there are no cell changes in the cervix. Unclear means the cervical cells can be abnormal which can be related to HPV, so HPV test is required. Abnormal means there were cell changes detected in the cervix. However, this does not instantly mean a woman has cervical cancer but it can be caused by HPV or in a more serious circumstance in a pre-cancer stage.
One of the recommended ways to avoid HPV is to get vaccinated. HPV vaccines can protect both men and women from getting infected by HPV. HPV vaccines are given in 3 shots over the span of 6 months. All 3 doses are important. The vaccines help the body’s immune system in producing antibodies to some of the HPV types. Women need to get screened for prevention, detection, and protection.