HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to not only cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer, but also genital warts. More than 150 strains of the virus exist and range in severity, with some causing no symptoms at all and others being potentially deadly. HPV-16 and HPV-18 alone are responsible for almost 70 percent of all cervical cancers, as well as other cancers that affect the throat, anus, and genital areas. Cancers can take years to develop after an initial HPV infection.
Other than lifelong abstinence, vaccinations are the best way to prevent the development of cancers caused by HPV. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that teenagers between the age of 13 and 15 should be vaccinated against HPV.
A Pap test can detect cancerous or precancerous changes to the cervix, but cervical cancer is the only HPV-related cancer with a screening. As a result, it’s critical for children, teens and young adults to receive this vaccination to reduce their risk for infection.
Women can be tested for HPV during a routine Pap test. Co-testing for HPV and cervical cancer allows for earlier treatment if done on a routine basis. Talk with our women’s health specialist about these guidelines to make sure you’re protecting yourself against HPV and cervical cancer.
- Women under 30 should receive a Pap test every three years (every year), but they may only require HPV testing if abnormal results are found during the Pap test.
- Women over 30 should receive co-testing for both HPV and cervical cancer every five years, or they can continue to receive a normal Pap test every three years (every year).