January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. During this time, the nation’s attention is turned to cervical health. The focus is on educating women about the connection between cervical cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection.
Many women may not realize that virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by just two types of HPV: 16 and 18. These viruses are responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. Here are a few quick facts about HPV:
- Most sexually active people contract HPV at some point
- At any time, there are approximately 79 million people in the U.S. with HPV
- There are 14 million new HPV infections in the U.S. each year
10 key facts about HPV and cervical cancer
Although few HPV infections lead to cervical cancer, early detection of HPV 16 and 18 — the types that cause cervical cancer — is key. Here are 10 things to know about HPV and cervical cancer:
- No one is HPV-immune: Anyone who has had sex of any kind can get HPV.
- Certain people have a higher risk for cervical cancer: Women who have HPV that doesn’t go away, have HIV or AIDS, or smoke, can be at a greater risk of getting cervical cancer.
- Vaccines: HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from the high-risk HPV types (16 and 18) that cause cervical cancer. Vaccines are recommended for all men and women through age 26.
- HPV symptoms: Certain types of HPV manifest in genital warts or warts on the fingers and hands. HPV 16 and 18 types cause changes in the cervix cells, which are detected in a Pap test.
- Testing: A Pap test can detect HPV-caused cell changes to the cervix (that can develop into cancerous cells). For women age 30 and over, an HPV test may be used along with a Pap.
- Detection: It can be years after exposure to the virus before HPV is detected. Which is why it’s usually impossible to determine when, or from whom, HPV has been contracted. A recent diagnosis of HPV does not necessarily mean anyone has been unfaithful, even in a long-term relationship.
- Treatment: There is no cure for the HPV virus. But HPV infections that cause genital warts, benign respiratory tract tumors and precancerous changes at the cervix can be treated. Abnormal cells can be removed via biopsy, cryotherapy (freezing cells) or laser therapy.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women with HPV almost always have natural deliveries and healthy babies. It’s very rare for a newborn to get HPV from the mother.
- HPV is common: Being diagnosed with HPV doesn’t mean you or your partner did something wrong. It just indicates that you, like millions of other people, were exposed to a common infection.
- Finding support: The National Cervical Cancer Coalition provides online support communities that connect patients, partners and caregivers.
Your optimal cervical health and more starts here
For comprehensive women’s healthcare to routine check-ups, urgent care and specialized treatments, the providers of Pomona Valley Health Centers (PVHC) are here for you. With locations across the Inland Empire, we proudly offer you and your family compassionate, convenient medical care.