For full protection against HPV, you will need to have three injections over a period of months. If you are concerned about your HPV risks, it is recommended that you make sure your smear tests are up to date, & that you consider your options with regard to HPV vaccination. If you would like to discuss your suitability for the vaccine, please come in for an appointment with one of our GPs. We always have female doctors available so do not hesitate to ask when you make your appointment. Our smear tests check for abnormal cell changes & also test for individual strains of HPV.
The human papilloma virus (HPV) usually does not cause any obvious symptoms. The main symptoms of HPV infection are only visible through a cervical exam, because the virus causes cell changes around the neck of the womb. Some lower-risk strains of HPV (usually HPV 6 or 11) can cause genital warts, which are small bumps or growths on the genital or anal area. Some strains of HPV cause veruccas & warts on the hands & fingers. There are over 100 different types of human papilloma virus.
High-risk strains of HPV (16 & 18), which cause abnormal tissue growth in the cervix & vagina, are associated with cervical cancer. They have also been linked to other genital, anal, & vaginal cancers, as well as some cancers affecting the head, neck, & throat.
How do you get HPV?
HPV is passed from one person to another through sexual contact. It cannot be prevented using barrier methods of contraception (such as condoms, although using them will reduce your risks), which is why vaccination is a popular preventative approach. The risks of HPV infection are increased the younger you are, & the greater your number of sexual partners, simply due to wider exposure to potential carriers.
It is possible to become infected with the HPV virus, & for the body then to clear the infection without treatment.
HPV & Cancer
Infection with certain strains of HPV increases your risk of developing cervical cancer, which affects roughly 3,100 women in the UK every year. With regular screening, abnormal changes in the cervix can be caught early & treated, which prevents the development of cervical cancer. Regular smear testing is an important part of protecting yourself. Our smear testing includes HPV subtyping, which tells you whether or not you have the HPV virus, & if so, whether or not you have a high-risk strain. A combination of regular smear testing & early HPV vaccination is a great preventative approach.
The vaccine protects against four different strains of HPV: 6, 11, 16 & 18.
The highest-risk strains, which cause the most cases of cervical cancer in the UK, are 16 & 18.