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As a teen, what should I know about HPV?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
HPV stands for human papilloma virus. There are over a hundred different strains of HPV, some of which are known to cause changes in the cells of the cervix that are detected as abnormal pap smears. If left untreated, these changes can progress into cervical cancer.  Other strains of HPV cause genital warts.
HPV is transmitted through sex and intimate contact such as genitals touching genitals. You can also get HPV in other tissue called mucus membranes such as the mouth and anus. The virus is very, very common in humans. When women in their 50’s were tested, 80% of these women showed signs of at least having been exposed to HPV at some time in their lives.
Health care can cure the symptoms of HPV, the abnormal paps and genital warts. But because it is a virus, there are no medicines that can cure HPV. Yet we now think that more than 80% of people who get HPV either cure it or suppress it enough to prevent problems through their own immune system.
Using condoms helps reduce the chances of catching HPV. It is also important to stay healthy so that if you catch HPV, your immune system will be strong enough to cure the virus. One of the most important changes you can make to prevent problems from HPV is to not use tobacco.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.