One of the most common topics women are concerned about and usually ask me about it as a doctor, is sexually transmitted diseases in general and “Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)” in particular. So here are a few important facts about it;
First of all, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, however in very rare occasions it can be transmitted by other means which is;
- Skin to skin contact in the genital areas of infected people such as oral sex (still a form of sexual act).
- A mother who has HPV can also infect her baby during delivery.
Secondly, there are many types of HPV, some types cause warts and other types cause cervical cancer but both types start with inflammation of the cervical area.
Let’s talk first about the types that causes warts:
They sometimes appear and disappear on their own without treatment BUT the virus could still be in the body and the person can pass on the infection to sexual partners without knowing that they are infected.
As for The types of HPV that cause cancer:
The types of HPV that cause warts are different than those that cause cancer. The types that cause cancer almost have no symptoms at all. It is usually discovered during routine pap smears (samples taken from the cervical area).
We find cells that have undergone some changes giving us an alarm of a cancer that might happen and we detect the virus. That’s why we usually advice routine Pap smears.
So the next question will be when should I have a Pap smear?
According to the updated guidelines the first Pap smear should be done at the onset of the first sexual activity. After that till the age of 29 a pap smear should be done every 3 years. From the age of 35-65 a pap smear together with an HPV test should be done every 5 years. If at any time the results come in positive of any of the 15 strains of HPV causing cancers then a checkup should be done once every 6 months.
Good news is….even if you have one of the strains causing cancer, these cells usually require more than 10 years to undergo cancerous changes.
Another good news that is usually people in good health…all types of HPV go away on their own without treatment. So, you can get infected and healed without even knowing!!
No treatment is available, we can just give anti-inflammatory drugs that could help in healing but it’s not an actual treatment of the virus.
HPV in men are very difficult to detect as there is no approved FDA test for it but we usually watch for signs as warts on the genitals. It is also associated with anal and penile cancers in men.
There is a vaccine available for HPV which is FDA approved however you will not find it easily in Egypt because as we all know Egyptian men are very loyal and rarely have multiple sexual partners (A very big hahahahahaaaa)!!!
Master in obstetrics and gynecology Alexandria university
Master in assisted reproduction, Valencia university (IVI) Spain
Member of European society of human reproduction and embryology
Director of integrated fertility center Alexandria