What Every Woman Should Know about HPV

If you haven’t been tested for HPV, now is a great time to attend to this item on your reproductive health list. There are many different types of the human papillomavirus, and most women remain at high risk of abnormal changes in the cervical tissue because of the virus, which, if unchecked, may lead to cancer.   

At Progressive Womens Health in Friendswood, Texas, Dr. Asia Mohsin performs Pap smears and HPV testing to help spot changes in your cervical cells early and reduce your chance of cervical cancer later in life.

HPV and cervical cancer 

HPV is sexually transmitted, and it can occur in both men and women. In some cases, the human body can throw off an HPV infection. However, for others, HPV can take hold and cause changes in a woman’s cervical tissues. These changes may lead to cancer.

Cervical cancer has almost no symptoms when it first begins to appear. You might have mild complaints such as vaginal discharge or abnormal vaginal bleeding, but these can be easily written off to other causes. However, if the cancer is not treated promptly, it can quickly proliferate, and you’ll be very ill before you know what’s causing you to be sick. 

The good news is that such cancer is treatable if caught early, and many cancers can be prevented entirely by protecting against HPV. Regular Pap smears (every three years) combined with HPV vaccination can prevent an estimated 93% of cancer cases. Sadly, many patients skip their well woman visits, and less than 70% of women stay up to date on their Pap smears.

Recommendations for Pap smears and HPV tests

Most doctors recommend starting to get Pap smears at age 21, and you should keep getting them annually until age 30. Then you can get a Pap smear every three years, or get a combination of a Pap smear and an HPV test every five years. There is also an HPV vaccine that can be given if you’ve never had HPV (most women have at least one strain by age 25).

You might need a Pap smear or HPV testing more often if you have an abnormal screening at any point; if you contract HIV or have a weakened immune system; if you’ve ever had cancer of any part of your reproductive system; or if your mother was given a drug containing diethylstilbestrol (DES, commonly prescribed to prevent miscarriages) before giving birth to you. 

What should you do if you have an abnormal Pap smear?

Many women have an HPV infection that results in an abnormal Pap smear. In most cases, though, the infection will clear on its own, and your next test will be normal. Dr. Mohsin will track your test results carefully and repeat them if needed to give you peace of mind. He will also guide you through what you need to do if the testing turns up something abnormal.

If it’s time for your next Pap smear or HPV test, call our office at 281-993-4072, or use our online scheduler to request an appointment

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