Symptoms of HPV in Women
- Signs of HPV in women include genital, common, plantar and flat warts, pre-malignant genital lesions, cervical cancer, tumors and oral or upper respiratory lesions. High-risk forms of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, while low-risk forms may cause warts. Warts can appear in the anus, vulva and/or vagina.
Regular Pap smears detect changes in the cervix caused by HPV, and can help identify potential cervical cancer cases. Sometimes symptoms go unnoticed, however, and Pap test results are normal though HPV is present in the body. Causes of HPV in Women
- The HPV virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. It could enter your body through an open cut or abrasion. Infections associated with genital warts are transmitted through sexual intercourse, anal sex or skin-to-skin contact in the genital region. At some point, at least half of all sexually active women and men get HPV. Risk Factors of HPV
- Women with a high number of sexual partners are at a greater risk of contracting HPV. Experts say sexually active women younger than 25 are also at a greater risk. A weak immune system may also affect the chances of getting the infection.
HPV does not affect a woman's ability to get pregnant. Women who become pregnant and have an HPV infection may have more outbreaks of genital warts than normal. This is because of their weakened immune systems. Sometimes warts can block the birth canal making a vaginal delivery difficult. If this happens, a Cesarean section may be needed. Rarely does a baby of an HPV-infected mother become infected. It is important to note that cervical cancer caused by HPV and the treatments needed to treat the cancer may interfere with fertility. Treatment of HPV in Women
- There is currently no treatment for HPV infections, but there are treatments for some of the symptoms found in women. For abnormal cells in the cervix, doctors may use laser treatment or cryosurgery where the affected tissue is frozen off. A LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) treatment removes the tissue using a hot wire loop. A cone biopsy, in which some of the tissue is removed for microscopic examination, is sometimes recommended. Genital warts may be burned or frozen off. They may also be cut off. In some cases, the immune system will keep the virus under control or eventually clear it from the body. Prevention of HPV in Women
- There is now a vaccine, Gardasil, that can protect women from four types of HPV. They are the most common strains that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It is recommended for girls as young as age 11 and up to 26. However, it is only effective in women and girls who have not yet been infected by HPV.
Women can also protect themselves from the virus by practicing sexual abstinence or monogamy. Condoms offer limited protection from HPV infections, as well.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer can often be cured when it’s found early. It is usually found at a very early stage through a Pap test.What causes cervical cancer?
Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. There are many types of the HPV virus. Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms.
You can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after you were infected. This is why it is important for you to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you treat these cell changes, you may prevent cervical cancer.What are the symptoms?
Abnormal cervical cell changes rarely cause symptoms. But you may have symptoms if those cell changes grow into cervical cancer. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:
- Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, or a change in your menstrual cycle that you can't explain.
- Bleeding when something comes in contact with your cervix, such as during sex or when you put in a diaphragm.
- Pain during sex.
- Vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood.
As part of your regular pelvic exam, you should have a Pap test. During a Pap test the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix to look for cell changes. If a Pap test shows abnormal cell changes, your doctor may do other tests to look for precancerous or cancer cells on your cervix.
Your doctor may also do a Pap test and take a sample of tissue (biopsy) if you have symptoms of cervical cancer, such as bleeding after sex.How is it treated?
Cervical cancer that is caught early can usually be cured. If the cancer is caught very early, you still may be able to have children after treatment.
The treatment for most stages of cervical cancer removes the cancer and makes you unable to have children. These treatments include:
- A hysterectomy and removal of pelvic lymph nodes with or without removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
- Radiation therapy.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). At least 50 percent of sexually active women contract some form of HPV during their lifetime. There are nearly 100 types of HPV. In women, HPV can cause cervical cancer and/or warts. Early detection is crucial in treating the infection.