In my opinion, one of the best developments in medicine in this century has been the advent of testing for the HPV virus (human papilloma virus), and the vaccine to prevent it.
When I was in practice as a gynecologist, this was one of the main diseases seen. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer, but it also causes venereal warts in the genital and other areas, like the throat and anus. HPV was a main cause of debility, embarrassment, and transfer of sexual diseases, harbored by an estimated 80% of sexually active adults.
Even though the majority of infections can clear up without incident, many progressed and were difficult to cure.
HPV can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. Most people infected with HPV have no symptoms, but these viruses increase a woman's risk for cancer of the cervix. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US. It is also the leading cause of abnormal PAP smears and pre-cancerous changes of the cervix in women. There is no cure for HPV infection, although anti-viral medications can reduce outbreaks and topical preparations can speed healing. Once contracted, the virus can stay with a person for life. Also called condyloma acuminatum, condylomata.
While the Pap Smear is a test that doctors routinely conduct to check women for cervical cancer, the Pap may not find abnormal cells in the cervix until cancer already has developed. The human papilloma virus (HPV) test, detects elevated levels of the infectious pathogen. HPV is harbored by an estimated 80% of sexually active adults, but the majority of infections clear up without incident. If you are younger than 30, experts now recommended that you have the HPV test if your Pap Smear test is unclear. If you are 30 or older, experts recommend you have the HPV test at the same time as your Pap test.
A new vaccine for cervical cancer is now available. The vaccine targets HPV types 16 and 18, thought to cause 70% of cervical cancers, and HPV types 6 and 11, associated with 90% of genital warts cases.
Getting this disease under control has been a great advancement in women, and I concur with the experts quoted above. And those women with young daughters should encourage them to have the test as recommended.