Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is an all too common sexually transmitted infection affecting millions of people. In fact, HPV is the most frequently spread sexually transmitted infections in the country.
Most newly infected people don’t realize they have HPV because there are usually no symptoms or harm done to them. Plus, their immune system typically eradicates the virus before it progresses into something worse. As a result, only a small percentage of infected people experience conditions like genital warts or cancer.
HPV spreads during sexual intercourse because of prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person’s mouth or genitals and your vagina, penis, cervix, anus, or vulva. A man’s penis doesn’t have to ejaculate or enter his partner’s mouth, vagina, or anus for HPV to spread.
Most sexually active people unknowingly contract HPV at least once in their lives. But since there are usually no symptoms, the immune system destroys the virus before the person realizes they were infected.
Why Regular Physical Examinations and Testing Are Important
The only time HPV becomes a real problem is when it causes you severe health issues. For this reason, you need to schedule regular physical examinations and testing with your doctor so that they can verify whether you have an HPV infection. If your tests return positive, your doctor will conduct further testing to determine your risk level for developing HPV-based cancer. That is the biggest concern about getting the virus.
Abnormal cellular growth in your cervix region could be a potential early warning sign of HPV-based cervical cancer. Your doctor will look for these abnormal cells by giving you a pap smear (pap test). If the doctor finds abnormal cells in your cervix, they can recommend the best treatment options for stopping their progression and reducing your cancer risk.
Please note that if the pap smear detects abnormal cervical cells inside you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer. However, it is essential to continue seeing your doctor for regular checkups because they can monitor your abnormal cervical cells and ensure they don’t progress into something worse.
The only HPV test available can look for high-risk HPV strains on the cervix. If such a strain is on the cervix, you’ll have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. Unfortunately, there is no HPV test for detecting high-risk HPV on the anus, penis, throat, or vulva. So you won’t know if you get HPV-based cancer in these areas until you experience its nasty symptoms.
Here are some examples of the symptoms:
HPV-Based Penile Cancer
- Skin color changes on the penis
- Skin thickness changes on the penis
- Painful sore on the penis
HPV-Based Anal Cancer
- Anal bleeding
- Anal itching
- Anal pain
- Unusual defecation
HPV-Based Vulvar Cancer
- Vulva skin color changes
- Vulva skin thickness changes
- Chronic pain in the vulva
- Itchy vulva
- A lump on the vulva
HPV-Based Throat Cancer
- Sore throat
- Continual coughing
- Ear pains
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble swallowing
- Sudden weight loss
- Lumpy neck
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. They may or may not be related to HPV-based cancer. But you have to find out one way or the other.
Is There a Cure for HPV?
Sadly, no cure exists for eradicating severe HPV infections. The best thing is to practice preventative care if you haven’t contracted HPV yet, especially if you are sexually active.
For instance, getting vaccinated is a proven way to stop high-risk HPV infections from invading your body and developing into cancer. Besides that, keep making regular appointments to see your doctor for checkups. They will continue giving you HPV tests and pap smears to detect HPV infections and abnormal cell changes. If any are discovered, they will recommend the best treatment options.
HPV Treatment Options
Your immune system should take care of most mild to moderate cases of HPV. But if your pap smear results show abnormal cell growth, your doctor may recommend you for a colposcopy, cryotherapy, and/or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP).
Colposcopy exams the cervix for precancerous cells. If they exist, you can have them frozen and removed through cryotherapy. Either that or an electrical current can destroy the precancerous cells through LEEP.