HPV: Things Every Woman Needs to Know

Three women celebrating being free of HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common virus that infects people from sexual transmission.  6 million people get HPV each year in the US.  The infection worries people because it can result in cancer.  There are reasons for concern but knowledge is power and we want to share some important facts about HPV with you. If you are sexually active you have most likely been exposed to HPV.  In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of sexually active people have been exposed to one strain of HPV.

Some Strains of HPV Cause Cervical Cancer

With over 100 HPV strains known most are not cancer causing.  The most common impact of HPV are genital warts which are from low-risk HPV.  High risk HPV strains specifically HPV 18 and HPV 16 are the most cancer-causing strains.

Pap Tests are How Doctors Monitor Abnormal Cells

Abnormal cervical cells are called lesions.  Lesions can be low-grade or high-grade.  High grade lesions are what cause cervical cancers if they are untreated.  High grade lesions have precancerous cells.  Women with a healthy immune response will need approximately 10-15 years to develop cancer from lesions that are high grade. In many cases, a healthy immune system can get rid of the lesions.  There are many ways to build your immune system naturally including life style, diet, and exercise.

Cervical Cancer from HPV is Rare

Although HPV and cervical cancer have been linked and some strains of HPV cause cancer most do not.  In fact, 90% of people will eliminate the HPV from their system and it will clear within 2 years.  Cervical dysplasia is the most likely outcome when you get HPV. This is when cells in the cervix change in the uterus opening.

HPV Can Result in Anal, Neck, and Head Cancers

Most people think the only form of cancer caused by HPV is cervical cancer.  The reality is HPV can cause other cancers which result from oral and anal sex.  The rates of oral cancer is growing faster than other forms.  Most people who get oral cancer are men.

The HPV Vaccine is Safe and Could Be a Life Saver

Over time the HPV vaccine has proven to be very safe and effective.  There have been many controversies related to vaccinations, but the vaccine will prevent cancer and can save your life.  Contact your healthcare provider and find out more about how to get the HPV vaccine.




Mayo Clinic