Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted disease that more than half of men and women will contract at some point in their lives. HPV infections are usually harmless and clears up naturally in about a year or two. HPV can be transmitted by genital, anal, or oral contact.
Although most people show no symptoms of the virus, some types of HPV can cause genital warts. Other types of HPV may cause cervical lesions, which over a period of time could lead to cancer if undetected. These cancers can be found in the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, or throat.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The most common way to detect precancerous cells is to get screened by a pap test. A pap test can detect changes in the cervix which will allow health care providers to determine which precautions to take to avoid cervical cancer. A HPV test may be performed in addition to a pap screening in women age 30 and over to detect the more high-risk types of HPV.
Besides abstaining from sex, the most effective way to prevent HPV and cervical cancer is to get vaccinated. HPV vaccinations protect against HPV strains that cause cervical and other cancers as well as genital warts. It is recommended that the vaccine be given to children and adolescents, both boys and girls, between the ages of 11- 14. Some might question getting their children vaccinated at such an early age because they are not sexually active. The reason for getting them vaccinated at that age is because the vaccine produces a stronger immune response during the pre-teen years. For this reason, only two vaccinations are required for this age group. Anyone between the ages of 15-26 would need to receive a series of 3 vaccinations.
The Jane Pauley Community Health Center provides screenings and vaccinations for HPV and cervical cancer. Contact us today to schedule your pap test or HPV screening with a JPCHC provider.