Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV can also cause cancer, especially cervical cancer. The physicians at The Association for Women’s Health Care encourage you to protect your health with regular check-ups and to consider getting the HPV vaccine. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations in The Loop in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois to learn more about preventing HPV.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Q&A

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the name of a large group of viruses that can be picked up from a variety of sources, including sexual intercourse. Many types of HPV don’t cause health problems. Of the sexually transmitted HPV viruses, some cause genital warts, while others — called high-risk HPV — cause cancer.

What is the association between HPV and cervical cancer?

Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. While high-risk HPV infections can go away on their own, if they stay in your body, they integrate into normal cells, causing the cells to grow abnormally. When they’re not treated, they progress to become cancer.

What are the symptoms of HPV infection?

The HPV virus alone seldom causes symptoms. Symptoms only arise as the virus causes warts or cervical cancer.

  • Genital warts: These may look like a flat wart, clustered bumps, or a stem-like projection from the skin. Genital warts usually appear on the external genitalia, but they can also develop in the vagina, on the cervix, and near the anus. They’re usually not painful, but they may be itchy. Genital warts do not usually signal cancer.
  • Cervical cancer: In the early stage, cervical cancer doesn’t cause symptoms. As the cancer grows into surrounding tissues, you’ll begin to experience:
    • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Bleeding may be longer or heavier than normal, or you may have bleeding after sex, between periods, or after menopause
    • Unusual discharge: Discharge from the vagina may include blood and occur between periods
    • Pain during sex

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer, as they can be signs of another type of infection or gynecologic problem, but they should never be ignored. Please schedule an examination at The Association for Women’s Health Care as soon as you notice symptoms. If you do have cancer, it’s important to get treatment before it progresses to an advanced stage.

Can HPV be prevented?

You can significantly lower your chance of getting infected with HPV by getting one of the approved vaccines or by using condoms every time you have sex. It’s also important to get regular preventive screening for cervical cancer and the HPV virus, so they can be caught at an early stage. Your physician at The Association for Women’s Health Care will let you know how frequently you should be tested.