I've heard a lot about the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the news lately. What is HPV and why should I be concerned?
HPV, or human papillomavirus, refers to a large family of viruses which are common in the general population. In this family there are some subtypes, or cousins, that are cancer-producing. These are referred to as high risk. In some people, high risk virus subtypes, mostly types 16 and 18, can trigger changes in the cervix, leading to cervical cancer. Some other subtypes, mostly 6 and 11, will trigger genital warts in some people. What is exciting is that we can now immunize people against certain subtypes of HPV, including the ones that can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts. And that means they will be much less at risk for cervical cancer. However, women who have been immunized against HPV should still have regular Pap tests to check for cervical cancer as recommended by their doctor.
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