Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a commonly contracted infection among sexually active people. The good news is that most infected people never experience any symptoms from HPV because their immune systems eliminate it before any real problems start.
However, in some cases, an infected person will develop noncancerous genital warts or abnormal cell growth that could lead to cancer. That is why every sexually active person needs to see their doctor for regular checkups and continuous monitoring of HPV if it is already in the body.
HPV Testing and Treatment
Most HPV-infected people don’t need treatment because their immune systems do all the work in eliminating the virus. Instead, your doctor will want to monitor your condition to see if abnormal cell growth develops in the genital region. But if no problems develop, you won’t need any further treatment.
Doctors usually have female patients undergo pap smears and cervical cell swabbing to test their cellular DNA and genetic material in a laboratory. If the test results reveal you have an HPV type which could lead to cancer, they can recommend the appropriate treatments before cancer growth occurs. Unfortunately, the same tests don’t work as HPV tests for men.
Abnormal cervical cell growth is a typical early indicator of cervical cancer. To look for precancerous lesions in the cervix, your doctor will want to perform a colposcopy to look for any microscopic precancerous lesions on your vulva, cervix, and vagina. Sometimes a bioscopy may be necessary too.
Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should consult their physicians before beginning any new HPV treatment. It is always better to ensure the pregnancy is not at risk from a particular HPV treatment.
Abnormal Cell Growth?
If your doctor believes you have abnormal cell growth from an HPV strain which can cause cervical cancer, the first thing your doctor may suggest is to wait a few months to see what happens.
Precancerous cell growth, cervical intraepithelial, neoplasia, and cervical dysplasia may disappear without treatment. Your immune system could be powerful enough to remedy the precancerous cells and prevent them from further abnormal growth. However, if the abnormal cell growth worsens or doesn’t go away, your doctor may recommend a few different treatments for stopping it.
The most popular treatments for dealing with abnormal cell growth are as follows:
- A loop electrosurgical excision procedure that uses an electric current to remove the abnormal cell growth and possibly the HPV cells as well.
- Conization to take out the abnormal growth areas altogether.
- Cryotherapy to freeze the abnormal cells to eliminate their growth. Carbon dioxide or liquid nitrogen will be used to freeze them.
- Laser therapy, where the doctor sends a hot laser into the abnormal cells to burn them up completely.
Your doctor will recommend the best method based on your condition and health status.
How to Manage Genital Warts
HPV-6 and HPV-11 type infections may cause flat or raised genital warts to grow on your groin, scrotum, vulva, cervix, penis, thigh, or anus. These could be large or small genital warts too. But regardless of their appearance, you should seek a doctor’s advice immediately after discovering them.
Treatment may cause your genital warts to disappear, but not always. The two most popular prescription treatments for genital warts are the topical creams Podofilox and Imiquimod.
- The Podofilox treatment should eliminate up to 90% of the genital wart tissues within four weeks. Unfortunately, there is a risk of warts growing back again.
- The Imiquimod treatment strengthens your immune system to a point where it can treat viral symptoms and eliminate genital warts, at least partially.
If these treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend more advanced treatment methods for eliminating genital warts. These treatments are as follows:
- Cryotherapy freezes your genital warts to the point where they fall off. Liquid nitrogen is preferred for this treatment.
- A chemical called trichloroacetic acid could be placed on your genital warts to eradicate them
- The surgical removal of the abnormal cells causing the genital warts
- Electrocautery utilizes an electric current to burn off your genital warts
- Laser therapy burns off your genital warts with an ultra-hot light
Surgical wart removal is probably the most effective treatment method. However, try the other treatment methods first because they usually have about an 85% success rate. Surgery is only good if you have no other choice.
Remember that you will have a better chance of treating and eliminating smaller warts than larger warts. For example, topical creams applied directly onto small warts should usually stop them. But if your warts don’t go away from all these different treatment methods, your doctor will need to conduct more tests to determine if another underlying condition is causing your warts to develop.