The Importance of HPV Screenings
Find out what screenings are available to check for HPV and HPV-related disease.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that affects millions of Americans most often during the late teen years and early 20s. With the rise of HPV infections over the years it’s now more important than every for women to get routine screenings to check for HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer. This is yet another reason why young women should visit their OBGYN at least once a year for routine checkups.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Some types of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of small bumps that appear in the genital area. They often appear weeks or months after being exposed to the virus. Genital warts may go away on their own without treatment or they may get worse; however, genital warts aren’t usually cancerous.
Unfortunately, most people will never know that they HPV because the viral infection usually does not cause symptoms. The body will often just shed the infection after a couple of years; however, there are certain HPV infections that can affect the cells and lead to cervical cancer.
What goes into getting an HPV screening?
There are two types of tests that your gynecologist can perform during your next visit to look for warning signs of HPV. The most common test is a Pap smear, which involves collecting cells from the cervix to check for changes or abnormalities. If pre-cancerous lesions are present or if cervical cancer is found early enough, treatment is very successful.
A Pap smear is performed right in your gynecologist’s office and it only takes a couple of minutes to collect the cells necessary for analysis. It’s important that you talk with your gynecologist about getting a cervical cancer screening and how often you should get screened. Women who’ve had abnormal Pap smear results in the past may need to be screened more regularly than women who’ve never had abnormal results. Your age will also dictate how often you should be screened.
HPV co-testing can be performed at the same time as the Pap smear. The only difference is that when the cells are collected the test will check for the presence of the virus rather than detecting changes in the cervical cells.
What does the HPV vaccine protect against?
According to the CDC, approximately 32,500 men and women are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers. By getting the HPV vaccine you could prevent cancer from happening to you. This vaccine could also prevent the need for HPV testing every year. Since it can be difficult to screen for certain cancers caused by HPV (particularly cancer of the rectum or throat), getting vaccinated could protect your teenager from these cancers in the future.
Do you have questions about getting the HPV vaccine for you or your teenager? Need to schedule your annual gynecological checkup? If so, turn to your OBGYN today and ask whether an HPV vaccine is a good option for your health.