December 28th 2010 - HPV, or
human papillomavirus, is a hot topic as we approach the beginning of a new
decade in women’s health. HPV causes cervical cancer, which is diagnosed
once every 47 minutes in the United States.
HPV is a
very common virus, infecting up to 80% of all women by the age of 50. It
is a virus with no symptoms that is passed during intimate contact. The
good news is that most HPV infections are taken care of by the body’s immune
system, with 90% of them becoming undetectable within 2 years. However,
there are certain “high-risk” types of HPV that cause cervical cancer if a
woman cannot fight off the HPV infection.
traditional way of screening women for cervical cancer is with a Pap test,
which should still be performed on all women starting at age 21. However,
the Pap test can miss up to 30% of abnormalities. To improve the
accuracy, there is now an HPV test that is performed on the cells of the cervix
to look for the “high-risk” types of HPV. It does not need to be done
routinely until the age of 30, when cervical cancer is more likely to develop
in a woman with a persistent HPV infection.
new weapon in the battle against cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine.
There are currently 2 vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, available for girls and
women ages 9-26. They are designed to protect women from HPV, but they
need to be given before there is any chance of exposure to HPV to be the most
effective. Vaccinated women will be protected from 70-90% of
cervical cancer cases.
At your next
appointment, ask your doctor about HPV and how it might be affecting your
Rasbach, M.D., is a board certified OB/GYN with Riverview Medical Group’s
OB/GYN Specialists. For more information or to schedule an appointment,