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What Women Need to Know About HPV

Here’s the thing about HPV -- it’s the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) out there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79 million Americans have HPV. That’s about a fourth of the population. What’s even more alarming is that of this number, most are in their late teens and early 20s. 

So, it’s important to not only take HPV prevention seriously, but to start taking steps early on. 

Our expert and caring team understands this all too well here at the Redding, California, office of Samuel D. Van Kirk, M.D. OBGYN, and that’s why we’ve compiled this helpful guide to tell you all that you need to know about HPV prevention and treatment.

What HPV is

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common STD out there. While HPV is usually harmless and subsides on its own, some types can lead to cancer or genital warts. 

To give you a better picture, there are more than 200 strains of HPV. Of those, there are two strains, type 6 and 11, which cause most cases of genital warts. While genital warts are a nuisance, they don’t actually cause any disease so they’re considered low-risk HPV.

However, there are also about a dozen strains that can lead to cancer. These strains are called high-risk HPV. While cervical cancer is most commonly linked to HPV, it may also cause cancer in your throat, mouth, anus, penis, vagina, and vulva. 

Because it’s an STD, HPV is most commonly spread by skin to skin contact with someone who already has it. It’s not even necessary to exchange fluids or have penetrative sex, because HPV can be spread by contact.

Symptoms of HPV

The majority of people with HPV don’t present with symptoms. Although the low-risk kind can cause genital warts, the high-risk type often doesn’t present with any symptoms at all until it progresses into a full-blown health problem, like cancer.

Prevent HPV today

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for HPV. But that’s exactly what makes prevention so important. And the fact that HPV usually doesn’t present with symptoms makes it all the more important to get tested regularly.

To detect HPV, Dr. Kirk does a pap smear to see if you have any of the abnormal cells that are associated with HPV. In addition to regular testing, you’ll also want to be sure to practice safe sex, avoid skin to skin contact, and always use condoms or dental dams when engaging in intercourse.

Another great preventative method is the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. The vaccine is a great idea for all people aged 9 to 45. It’s recommended that children get it at around age 11 or 12, so that they’re already protected before they start becoming sexually active. Gardasil protects against the two types of HPV that cause 80% of cervical cancer cases, and the two strains that cause 90% of genital warts cases.

Make sure you’re protected from HPV -- call and make an appointment with Dr. Kirk today.

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