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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV is transmitted through sexual contact. There are over 100 types of HPV; around 30 of them can case cancer.

Those at risk include those who have had multiple sexual partners or who have began sexual activity at an early age. Other risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use, and stress and other viral infections, especially HIV and herpes, at the same time as an HPV infection.

Symptoms

Typically, HPV is asymptomatic. However, some symptoms may include:

  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding outside of menses, including bleeding after intercourse.
  • Itching
  • Lesions: raised, pink (flesh-colored) swellings ("cauliflower-like) around genitals, anus, cervix, and surrounding skin
  • Warts may also appear on fingers and feet. These might appear weeks to months after exposure to the virus, or may not appear at all.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Doctors will test for HPV in women by doing a Papanicolaou test (Pap smear) to test to see if primary cervical cells have changed.

There is no HPV test for men.

A topical skin treatment may be prescribed to treat the warts. Surgery may be required to remove infected tissue. These procedures include:

  • Cryosurgery: use of extreme cold to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue.
  • Electro-cauterization: use of electricity to destroy abnormal tissue.
  • Laser Therapy: use of intense beams of light to precisely cut, burn or destroy tissue.
  • Cutting lesions out.

What happens if you go untreated?

While there is no cure for HPV, in most women the infection disappears on its own. However, if untreated, depending on the type of HPV, cervical and vulvar cancer may develop. If the warts are untreated, they may increase in number, enlarge in size and may require extensive treatment.

More Information

There is currently available a Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine available that can help prevent 4 strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.

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