HPV

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    The greatest risk factor associated with cervical cancer is an infection with some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infections are very common and are a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

    Although not recommended for all women, there is a test that can be done to see if you have an HPV infection. When a Pap test is performed your healthcare provider collects some extra cells and may test them for the virus. The results will tell you if you have an HPV infection or not, but not which type. You may discuss with your healthcare provider the significance of the test.

    The HPV test will only tell you if you have an HPV infection, not cervical cancer.
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    HPV stands for human papillomavirus, and there are more than 100 types. The ones that concern doctors spread through sexual contact -- 15 of those cause nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

    The HPV vaccine protects against two of the most common cancer-causing strains and is routinely recommended for girls 11 and 12 and for older girls and women up to age 26 who did not receive it when they were younger. It can be given to girls as young as 9. Because the vaccine can also prevent genital warts and anal and throat and mouth cancers, it is recommended for 11- and 12-year old boys and for males up to age 21 if they did not receive the vaccine when they were younger. The goal is to vaccinate girls and boys before they become sexually active; if you're infected with a strain of HPV in the vaccine already, the vaccine can't get rid of the virus, though it can still protect against strains with which you are not infected.

    The HPV test looks for the presence of HPV in the cervix. Women should begin regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21. This includes all women, even those who had an HPV vaccine. In women younger than 30, the screening is done with a Pap test, in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope for any changes that could turn into cancer. The goal is to eliminate the cells early before they become cancerous, thus preventing the cancer. Thanks to the Pap test, the incidence of cervical cancer in this country has plummeted in the past few decades.

    Women who are 30 and older should be screened with an HPV test along with the Pap test. For women younger than 30, the HPV test is only recommended if their Pap results are inconclusive. If the Pap and the HPV test are both negative, you don't need to be rescreened for another five years.
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    Although healthcare providers differ in what they offer as routine screenings, many do make the human papillomavirus (HPV) test available to women because it is now recommended by many major professional organizations. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend as an option that women who are 30 or older may have the HPV test along with a Pap test, rather than the Pap test alone.

    The HPV test looks for cancer-causing types of HPV, which cause nearly all cases of cervical cancer. Pap tests look for abnormal cell changes caused by HPV. Studies find that the combination of a Pap test and HPV test is the most effective way to find cervical disease and cancer, better than using a Pap alone. If the HPV test is positive (meaning you have HPV), it doesn't necessarily mean you will get cancer. Almost all women clear the virus with the help of their immune systems. It just means that your healthcare provider will want to monitor you more closely for any cell changes that may happen as a result of the HPV infection.

    More and more healthcare professionals are now offering the HPV test along with the Pap to women 30 and older. Women under 30 do not need to be tested for HPV unless their Pap tests are inconclusive or "borderline" for cell changes. This is because most young women will have an active infection at some point, but the infection will clear up on its own without problems.
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    If you have human papillomavirus (HPV), the following are questions to ask your healthcare provider:
    • Please explain the treatment you recommend. Given the wide variety of treatment options available, why is one better for me than the others?
    • How much will each treatment cost, and how many treatments will it take to permanently remove my warts?
    • What are the side effects of this treatment?
    • What should I do if my symptoms or treatments become painful?
    • Can I have sex during the treatment period?
    • If I'm pregnant, or plan to get pregnant, how will HPV affect me and my baby?
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    The following are questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider about human papillomavirus (HPV):
    • What is HPV?
    • What cervical cancer screening tests do I need at this exam?
    • (If you are 21 to 29 years of age) If my Pap test results are not normal, will you do an HPV test?
    • If I have an abnormal Pap test, does this mean I have HPV?
    • (If you are 30 or older) Are you doing both an HPV test and a Pap test together?
    • Will the HPV test tell me if I have the two most high-risk types of HPV -- HPV 16 or 18?
    • What happens next if my HPV test shows that I have HPV?
    • I want to know my test results, even if everything comes back fine. How can I get the results?
    • Since I no longer need annual Pap tests, what tests will you do during my annual visit?
    Can I get the HPV vaccine?
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    There are more than 100 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and at least 15 high-risk types have been linked to cancer of the cervix. While most women who develop cervical cancer have HPV, only a small proportion of women infected with HPV develop cervical cancer. Only persistent HPV infection leads to cervical cancer. Additionally, some low-risk types of HPV cause vaginal and vulvar warts; other HPV strains cause the warts that sometimes develop on the hands or feet.
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    Each year, HPV causes close to 27,000 cancers, affecting about 17,600 women and 9,300 men. HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers and many cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, and oropharynx. Every year in the U.S., about 4,000 women die from cervical cancer, even with extensive screening and treatment programs. Most of these cancers could be prevented by HPV vaccine.

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
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    If you haven't already had your daughter or son vaccinated for the human papillomavirus (HPV), it's not too late. Ask your child's doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. Take advantage of any visit to the doctor -- such as an annual health checkup or physicals for sports, camp or college -- to ask the doctor about what shots your preteens and teens need.

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
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    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for preteens at ages 11 or 12 years because it works best when the vaccine series is given prior to exposure to HPV infection. Preteens have very little risk of exposure to HPV.

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
  • 2 Answers
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    AHealthyWomen answered
    The human papillomavirus (HPV) test in combination with the Pap test is better at identifying women at risk for developing cervical cancer than the Pap test alone. The HPV test should be done every five years along with Pap test in women ages 30-65. It should also be done every five years in younger women with inconclusive Pap tests. 
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