10 Things to Know About HPV and Cervical Cancer

10 Things to Know About HPV and Cervical Cancer

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.

Let us show you what a difference our team of dedicated providers can make in your health and well-being. To schedule an appointment, call 909-536-1493 or click here to use our online form.

Understanding Cervical Cancer

shutterstock_349950767

 

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is rare type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Cervical cancer affects fewer than 200,000 women each year, but it is associated with a very common sexually transmitted disease, known as the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Symptoms of cervical cancer

People who have early stage cervical cancer typically do not exhibit any symptoms. When the cancer becomes more advanced, some symptoms include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

Causes of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer begins when healthy cells undergo a genetic change that causes them to turn into abnormal cells. Though an exact cause of cervical cancer has yet to be determined, HPV definitely plays a role. When a woman is exposed to HPV, her immune system can usually fight off the virus on its own and prevent any harm. Some women, however, are unable to fight off the virus, which survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cells on the surface of the cervix to become cancer cells.

Screening for cervical cancer

Early detection is key to successful treatment of all cancers, including cancer of the cervix. It’s recommended that women begin screening for cervical cancer at 21 years of age. Screening tests include:

  • Pap test – The cervix is swabbed for cell samples to be examined and tested for abnormalities.
  • HPV DNA test – The cells collected from the cervix are tested specifically for the strains of HPV that are more likely to lead to cervical cancer. Not all HPV strains lead to cancer. This test is recommended when a Pap test comes back abnormal.

Treatment and prevention of cervical cancer

The treatment of cervical cancer depends on several factors, like the stage of the cancer, your overall health, and your preferences. Surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy treatments may be used. You can reduce your risk for developing cervical cancer by having regular screening tests and getting the HPV vaccine.

For more information about cervical cancer, or to speak with a physician about an HPV vaccine, call Pomona Valley Health Centers at (888) 686-0773.