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I Tested Positive for HPV - Now What?

You likely learned about sexually transmitted diseases in school but never imagined you’d actually contract one. Testing positive for an STD like HPV, although an upsetting circumstance, doesn’t always mean you need to panic. In fact, catching it early enough can lead to early prevention and treatment of other serious medical issues like cervical cancer. 

It’s always best to be prepared and know what to expect after receiving a diagnosis of any kind. That’s why our team at Women’s Health Services are sharing their expert advice and guidance so you’re ready for your next appointment. 

Fast facts about HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease. An estimated 79 million Americans, typically in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with the virus. This means if you’re sexually active, the chances are high you’ll become infected if you haven’t had the vaccine.

HPV is usually transmitted through sexual interactions or through a cut or abrasion on your skin. Contracting the virus through skin-to-skin sexual contact can result in genital warts; oral sex can result in lesions on your tongue, tonsils, soft palate, larynx, or nose.

Some strains of the virus will resolve on their own with no symptoms while others can cause more serious health threats like cervical cancer. 

Because HPV doesn’t always cause symptoms, you must maintain your scheduled Pap smear exams. Pap smears are your first line of defense against HPV, its potential symptoms, and the health problems that can develop. 

During the exam, our doctors gather a small sample of cells from your cervix to test for abnormalities. If there are cellular irregularities, you’ve likely contracted HPV. 

Your next steps

Perhaps the biggest and most frightening concern associated with contracting HPV is suffering from cancer later on. A positive test result doesn’t mean a cancer diagnosis is inevitable—it simply means you’re at a higher risk. 

We take positive HPV results and cellular abnormalities very seriously and conduct extensive testing and regular monitoring to make sure the virus doesn’t result in more serious issues. 

Here are a few things you can expect after receiving your positive results.

Colposcopy

This is the first step after an abnormal Pap smear. During a colposcopy, we take a closer look into your cervix with a bright light and a special magnifying glass. A tool called a speculum separates the walls of your vagina, which allows us to better examine the irregularities. 

This will help us determine exactly what’s going inside and how to advise you on your treatment options. 

Biopsy

A biopsy is usually done at the same time as your colposcopy. We’ll take another sample of your cervical cells and put them under a microscope for a closer look. We may also recommend another round of testing in a year to monitor your progress 

Getting rid of abnormal cells

Depending on the specific abnormalities present in your cervix, we recommend a procedure called a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove the areas of tissue that could eventually become cancerous.

Seeking treatment

While there’s no known cure or treatment for HPV, there are some things you can do for the more inconvenient side effects like genital warts. You can find relief from warts with certain prescriptions or let them go away on their own depending on the kind of warts you have.

If your cells show signs of cancer, you’ll need to see a gynecologic oncologist for further treatment. 

Getting the news you have HPV isn’t easy, but our experienced and compassionate providers are here to ease your fears. If you want more information or would like to set up a consultation, contact our friendly staff or schedule an appointment online.

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