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Frequently Asked Questions About HPV

By Dr Jireh Serfontein.

What should I know about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?

Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are a group of more than 100 different viruses.

  • About 40 types of HPV are through genital contact during intercourse or just through touching.
  • Some types of HPVs can cause cervical cancer when not treated.
  • HPV infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI).
  • About 75 to 80 percent of sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their life.
  • Most women with untreated HPV do not get cervical cancer.
  • Some HPVs cause genital warts but these HPVs do not cause cervical cancer.
  • Since HPV rarely causes symptoms, most people don’t know they have the infection.
  • There are two vaccines available that can prevent to most common HPV infections which cause most of the cervical cancer and genital wart cases.

What does an abnormal Pap Smear result mean?

It is scary to hear that your Pap Smear results are “abnormal.” But abnormal Pap Smear results usually do not mean you have cancer. Most often there is a small problem with the cervix . Abnormal results indicate that there are cell changes caused by HPV. The changes can be mild, moderate or severe. Most women with abnormal cells do not have cancer, but more severe abnormal cells may progress to cancer over time. Abnormal results can be referred to as dysplasia, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL).

  • Low-grade SIL (LSIL) or CIN1: mildly abnormal cells that usually go away on their own.
  • High-grade SIL (HSIL), CIN2 or CIN3: moderate to severe abnormal cells. CIN3 also may be referred to as carcinoma in situ.

If the Pap smear results are abnormal your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Follow-up testing with a Pap smear and and HPV test in 3 to 6 months.
  • Colposcopy examination by a oncogynaecologist on our team (This is a procedure that involves looking at the cervix using a microscope).
  • If there is an area of abnormal skin on the cervix, a tiny piece is removed and is sent to the laboratory to be evaluated. This is called a biopsy. The biopsy can help determine if you need treatment to remove the abnormal cell.

How can I reduce my chances of getting cervix cancer?

The best way to avoid cervical cancer is by steering clear of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer and one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI). Luckily, there are now two vaccines available that can prevent HPV infection.

A woman has a higher risk of developing cervical cancer if she:

  • Starts having sex before age 18
  • Has many sex partners
  • Has sex partners who have other sex partners
  • Has or has had a STI
  • Did not have to HPV Vaccine

What should I know about the HPV Vaccine?

There are two kinds of HPV vaccines available: Cervarix and Gardasil.

  • Cervarix: protects only against the most common viruses that cause cervical cancer.
  • Gardasil: protects against the most common viruses that cause cervical cancer as well as genital warts.

You need three injections over a 6-month period. Once you have chosen to have a certain vaccine, you cannot switch to the other kind – you will have to complete the course to make it effective. You will also most likely need a top-up after about 5 tot 10 years, although the research has yet confirmed the need of this. The chance of a serious complication due to the vaccination is very slim – less than 1/10 000. You can expect pain at the injection site for a few days as well as a possible mild fever.

To get the vaccine for yourself or your daughter, please call us at 086 7272 950 to make an appointment.