The American Cancer Society reports that that human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most likely cause of cervical cancer in women, although it can also cause other cancers, including vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal and mouth and throat. HPV is very serious and it is important to become knowledgeable of the virus and the primary cancer that it can cause. Read on to learn more.
How Do You Even Get HPV? What Are the Signs?
Skin-to-skin contact is necessary in order to transmit the virus. Usually, it is transmitted via anal or vaginal intercourse, but it can also be spread through oral sex. This is true even when an individual is not presenting any signs of infection. What makes this virus more difficult and complex is the fact that no symptoms may present themselves for several years. This is why testing (discussed later) is so critical.
Don't Overlook the Importance of the HPV Vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the HPV vaccine is a three-shot series that is given over the course of six months. Two of the three shots given will also help to protect against anal cancer and genital warts in males and females. While all of these shots can be received individually, it is best to have them all together when it comes to females. This offers the best overall protection against a variety of cancers. It is recommended boys and girls in their preteen years (roughly 12 years of age) so that the body has time to build an immune response to the vaccine prior to becoming sexually active.
The Only Two Tests That Truly Matter.
When it comes to testing for cervical cancer and HPV, the two tests that you need to have are pap smears and HPV screenings. Both of these can be performed individually, but you can reap much higher rewards with a lower false-negative rate by getting them both done together. The pap smear will only check for cervical cancer, but the HPV test can help detect cell changes related to other HPV-related cancers. Together, according to the National Cancer Institute, there is a better chance of detecting abnormalities of the glandular cells, which are found in the lining of the uterus and endocervical canal.
Regardless of your age, if you are a woman and are sexually active, you need to undergo a pap smear and a HPV test regularly. This is to help prevent cancer from developing and to detect it early on if it has already started. Schedule an appointment with your gynecologist sooner rather than later. Your health isn't something to put off.