HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
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Protect yourself against cervical
What every woman should know about HPV.
What does HPV stand for?
· HPV is short for Human Papilloma Virus.
·HPV is a very widespread virus. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 women will have developed HPV before the age of 50.
· For most women, HPV causes no complications. They can ward off the infection before health problems develop. However, for some women, the infection persists.
· Men can also develop HPV, but it rarely causes serious health problems for men.
What is the link between HPV and cervical cancer?
· Some high-risk strains of HPV cause cervical cancer.
· When a woman is unable to fight off infection from high-risk HPV, abnormal cells can develop on the cervix. If they are not detected and treated early, these abnormal cells can develop into cervical cancer.
Can HPV cause other health problems?
· Low-risk strains of HPV can sometimes cause genital warts. These can be treated. At this time, the FDA and Health Canada have approved no HPV screening test for men.
How do you know if you have HPV?
· High-risk HPV has no symptoms. You can
be infected with HPV without knowing it.
· The United States Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada have approved a high-risk HPV screening test for women that can be done at the same time as a Pap smear. The Digene® HPV screening test determines whether you are affected with one or several of the 13 strains of potentially carcinogenic HPV. While there is no treatment for HPV itself, knowing that you have HPV, your physician or nurse is in a position to monitor your condition closely.
· At this time, the FDA and Health Canada have approved no HPV screening test for men.
How can you get HPV?
· HPV is spread by intimate (genital) skin to skin
contact, usually during sexual relations.
· The probability of developing HPV increases when you have several sexual partners, but is possible to develop the virus from sexual contact with a single partner.
· Once you are infected with the virus, you could have no complications. It could simply go away. However, it could also remain latent in your cervical cells and remain undetected for months or years before flaring up and provoking the formation of abnormal cells.
The HPV Screening Test
· The HPV screening test is done in a laboratory on a
sample of cervical cells. In fact, the HPV screening test can usually be
conducted on the same sample as that collected for the smear.
· The HPV screening test uses the latest molecular technology to detect high-risk strains of HPV.
· It is important to know whether you have the virus because a person who has HPV can develop cervical cancer and will need to undergo further tests.
Are there any tests to prevent or detect cervical cancer?
There are two tests to prevent or detect cervical cancer: a smear (Pap test) and an HPV screening test. For both of these tests, the doctor or the nurse takes a sample of cervical cells during your gynaecological exam.
The smear (Pap test)
· The sample of cervical cells is sent to a laboratory,
where it is examined under a microscope for any sign of abnormal changes
caused by HPV.
· If the cells appear to be abnormal, another examination, called a colposcopy, is usually made to determine the presence of malignant cells. During the colposcopy, the doctor or the nurse closely examines your cervix using a magnifying lens and a powerful light. A small piece of tissue is often removed at the same time to be sent to the laboratory for a biopsy. If malignant cells are diagnosed early, they can be removed before cancer develops.
· However, the Pap smear is not foolproof, because it depends on the quality of the cell sample and the skill of the person who examines it. Research shows that in 15 to 35 percent of cases, a smear does not reveal the presence of abnormal cells requiring treatment. What's more, some cells can appear abnormal even when they are not.
How do you know what test is needed and when?
Women under the age of 30
· Every woman should have a Pap test within three years
of her first sexual relations or by the age of 21 - whichever comes first.
· Systematic HPV screening is not yet needed because as a rule HPV infections among young women do not remain active for long.
· Nevertheless, medical experts recommend that women of all ages have an HPV screening test if their Pap smear results are inconclusive - in other words, when the Pap smear results are neither clearly abnormal nor clearly normal.
Women aged 30 and older
· Cervical cancer occurs most often among women in this
age group because persistent HPV infections are most likely to occur in this
group. HPV infections can last several months and even years before causing
· This is why numerous medical organizations now recommend that all women aged 30 and older be screened for HPV when they have a Pap smear.
· If your smear is normal but you have developed high-risk HPV, this is a warning that that you are also at risk for cervical cancer. Medical experts recommend a reassessment of the situation in six months or one year; if the HPV infection is still active, a colposcopy (sometimes with a biopsy) is recommended to check for the presence of malignant cells that will need to be removed.
· When the Pap smear and the HPV screening test are done simultaneously on a regular basis, it is almost always possible to prevent cervical cancer.
Can the new HPV vaccine prevent infection?
· The first HPV vaccine was approved by the FDA in June
2006 and by Health Canada in July 2006 for girls and young women aged 9 to
· The vaccine protects against the two most common strains of HPV responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. However, there are more than 10 other high-risk strains of HPV that the vaccine does not protect against. The Digene HPV screening test detects the 13 high-risk strains of HPV responsible for 100% of cervical cancers.
· The vaccine is most effective among women who have not been exposed to the targeted strains of HPV through sexual contact. The vaccine does not cure an existing HPV infection.
· All women, whether they have been vaccinated or not, should have a Pap smear on a regular basis and if aged 30 and older should also have an HPV screening test. Speak with your doctor or nurse to determine a schedule of medical examinations and follow-up that best meets your needs.
Protect yourself against cervical cancer! Have screening tests on a regular basis. To learn more, go to http://www.theHPVtest.com. Make sure that you have a Pap smear on a regular basis, and if you are 30 years of age or older (or if your Pap smear results are inconclusive), ask your healthcare professional for an HPV screening test. Yes, this is an extra test; but it is one that will give you peace of mind.
Some strains of HPV that you should
There are more than 30 strains of HPV that affect the genital area.
· Some strains of HPV can cause cervical cell
abnormalities, cervical cancer and other cancers.
· Other strains of HPV can cause genital warts and benign changes (abnormal but non-cancerous cells) to the cervix. .
All strains of genital HPV can also cause abnormal but benign Pap test results that do not have serious consequences.
What you should know:
· Cervical cancer, cervical cell abnormalities and
genital warts are caused by certain strains of HPV, a widespread virus. An
estimated 75% of Canadians will be infected by HPV at least once during
· Anyone whose sexual activities involve genital contact can become infected by HPV, but it is most common among young women aged 15 to 29.
· For both men and women, the average risk of developing genital warts during their lifetime is 10%.
· On average, one woman dies from cervical cancer every day in Canada.
· Regular Pap tests, a limited number of sexual partners, the use of condoms and vaccination against some strains of HPV can all help prevent HPV infection and its consequences, particularly cervical cancer and genital warts.
Safeguard your future and the future of your loved ones. Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent HPV infection and its consequences.
Do you want to learn more about HPV infection? Go to http://www.infovph.ca.
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