You have probably heard the letters HPV, but still have some confusion on exactly what it is and how you get
it. HPV stands for the human papillomavirus and it is transmitted during intercourse. In fact, HPV is the most commonly transmitted infection during intercourse and most sexually active people will come in contact with HPV at some point during their lives. Some people have no signs or symptoms of HPV, while other people have genital warts. During your pap smear we will screen you for any abnormalities that can be caused by HPV.
If during your pap smear LOW risk HPV is detected your body will usually clear the virus on its own. We will monitor you closely to make sure the HPV is not causing any further cell changes that will require further intervention. If during your pap smear cell changes are found that are usually caused by HPV we will perform a colposcopy. This will allow us to take a closer look at the cervix to check for changes in the cells that could lead to pre-cancer.
There are ways to help protect yourself against HPV. Practicing safer sex will help avoid your exposure to different strains of HPV. Also, if you are under 26 years of age you are still eligible to get the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. The HPV vaccine helps to protect you against 4 different strains of HPV. The vaccine protects against strains 16 and 18 that cause most cases of cervical cancer, and 6 and 11 which can cause genital warts.
Make sure to visit us at Gynecology Institute of Chicago for your annual screening and the HPV vaccine.