Did you know the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI)? In fact, over half of sexually active men and women test positive for more than one type of HPV.
If you’re facing a diagnosis of high-risk HPV, the team at Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare in Fayetteville, Newnan, and Stockbridge, Georgia, understands you’re probably feeling stressed and confused. Our expert providers are here to guide and support you.
The most important thing to understand is that having high-risk HPV doesn’t mean you have cancer or that you’ll definitely develop it. Take some time and keep reading to learn what you need to know.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 200 related viruses, including strains that aren’t transmitted sexually. Doctors categorize these viruses into two main types: low-risk and high-risk.
When people talk about HPV, they’re usually referring to the sexually transmitted type. Approximately 40 HPV strains get transmitted sexually through skin-to-skin contact.
Some of these sexually transmitted strains are considered low risk and can lead to genital warts. High-risk HPVs, on the other hand, are associated with various cancers.
HPV is highly common, especially among sexually active adults. Many types of HPV are harmless, but others can lead to serious health problems, particularly if a high-risk type is involved.
What is high-risk HPV?
High-risk HPV refers to specific strains of the virus that are more likely to lead to certain types of cancer. The most notable types are HPV 16 and HPV 18, which are responsible for the majority of HPV-related cancers, including cervical, anal, and other genital cancers.
Most high-risk HPV infections go away on their own and don’t cause cancer. However, in some cases, the infection may persist and lead to precancerous changes. And for some women, high-risk HPV infections can cause different forms of gynecological cancer — especially cervical cancer.
What does a high-risk HPV diagnosis mean for me?
Being diagnosed with high-risk HPV doesn’t mean you have cancer. It does, however, mean that you carry a strain of HPV that may increase your risk of developing certain cancers in the future. Here's a closer look at what you can expect if you've been diagnosed:
Your providers at Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare will recommend regular screenings to monitor for any precancerous changes. This can include Pap tests and HPV tests. Regular monitoring is vital for early detection and effective treatment.
Treatment for precancerous changes
If any precancerous changes are detected, your health care team may recommend treatments to remove or destroy the affected tissue. This can prevent the affected tissues from developing into cancer.
It's completely natural to feel a mix of emotions after an HPV diagnosis. You may feel anxious, frightened, or even guilty. Our compassionate health care providers are here to offer support and answer any questions you may have.
Focus on healthy lifestyle choices
While there's no specific treatment for an HPV infection, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can support your immune system. Eating a nutritious diet, avoiding smoking, and staying physically active are all part of a healthy lifestyle that can help your body clear the virus. You’ll also want to practice safe sex to prevent further spread.
Get the HPV vaccine
Even if you’ve been diagnosed with a high-risk HPV type, the HPV vaccine can still be beneficial. For example, the vaccine offers protection against other types of HPV that you may not have been exposed to.
The vaccine can also help prevent the spread of high-risk HPV to others if you’re sexually active. And while it won’t cure an existing infection, the vaccine can boost your immune response to the virus, giving you a stronger defense.
A high-risk HPV diagnosis is concerning, but it’s not a cause to panic. With the support and guidance of your Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare team, you can get the care and attention you need to thrive.
To learn more about HPV and the steps you can take to protect your health, call 770-991-2200 or book an appointment online with Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare today.