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HPV Infections

What is HPV?

  • The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus. There are many different strains of HPV, and most adults in the United States have been exposed to at least one type. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 79 million Americans are infected with HPV.

  • Low-risk HPV can cause condyloma or genital warts.

  • High-risk HPV can lead to abnormal pap smears and can cause vulvar, vaginal, cervical, and anal cancers. There are 14 types of HPV that are considered high risk. These types of HPV have the potential to progress to cervical cancer if left unmonitored and untreated for many years. Eight out of ten women will test positive for high-risk HPV before the age of 50. For this reason, we include HPV co-testing with the pap smear for all women who are 30 years or older.

  • If there are abnormal cells on your pap smear, you test positive for a high-risk strain of HPV, or if there is a combination of both, then a colposcopy may be recommended. A colposcopy is a procedure done in the office that allows your provider to take a closer look at the cells on your cervix using a microscope.

HPV Vaccine:

  • Because of the prevalence of HPV, a vaccination has been developed. The HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is recommended for all women and men ages 9 to 45. Gardasil immunizes against the nine most common strains of HPV (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58); the two most common types that cause genital warts and the seven most common types that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine does not protect from all types of HPV. It is also not a treatment for HPV. The vaccine is now recommended up to age 45. The insurance companies vary in their coverage of this vaccine.

  • Ideally a woman should complete the vaccination series before she becomes sexually active.

  • The schedule for the vaccination series (which should be completed in 6 months) is as follows:
    • 1st injection at 0 months
    • 2nd injection 2 months after first injection
    • 3rd injection 4 months after the 2nd injection (6 months after the 1st injection)

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