Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It’s also the virus that causes cervical cancer. The doctors at Capital Women’s Care encourage you to get your routine Pap smear, which catches signs of cervical cancer at an early stage when it’s easy to cure. To schedule a Pap smear or your annual well-woman exam, use the online booking tool or call one of their offices in Rockville and Silver Spring, Maryland.
HPV refers to a large group of viruses, some of which can be transmitted through sexual contact. While most sexually transmitted HPVs don't cause a problem; some cause genital warts and others, called high-risk HPV, can cause cancer.
All types of HPV infections, including those caused by high-risk viruses, often go away on their own because your immune system clears the infection. But in some cases, HPV gets into normal cells, making them grow abnormally. These are the cells that become cancerous.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a high-risk HPV infection. The same viruses can also cause oral cancer and cancer in the vagina or penis.
HPV may not cause symptoms until you develop genital warts or an infection causes precancerous growth. Genital warts usually occur on your external genitalia, but they may develop in your vagina or on your cervix. Genital warts do not become cancerous.
You won’t experience symptoms when cervical cancer is in its early stage. As the cancer grows, you may experience pain during sex, as well as:
Menstrual periods may be longer or heavier than normal, or you may bleed between periods. Some women have bleeding after menopause, following sex, or after douching.
Discharge from your vagina may include blood and occur after menopause or between menstrual periods.
These symptoms can be signs of other problems not related to cancer, so it's important to schedule a pelvic exam to rule out cancer or catch it at an early stage.
A Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer. Your doctor at Capital Women's Care takes a small sample of cells from your cervix; then they're sent to a lab where the cells are examined for signs of abnormal changes.
When your Pap results show mild changes, your doctor may test for the presence of HPV or wait a short time then do another Pap test to see if the changes have healed. If your Pap shows moderate to severe abnormalities, you’ll need a colposcopy.
During a colposcopy, your doctor uses a colposcope to get a magnified view of your cervix. If abnormal cells are observed, a biopsy is performed to precisely diagnosis of the problem.
If you haven’t had a Pap test in the last year, protect your health and call or schedule an appointment online today.