HPV - Human Papillomavirus Virus in Washington, DC

What is HPV? Human Papillomavirus virus refers to a group of over 100 different types of viruses, 40 of which are considered sexually transmitted diseases. Some strains of the virus lead to health issues such as genital warts and cervical cancer.

How do you get HPV?

You can get HPV through oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a partner who has the virus. Genital touching may also transmit the virus.

Condoms and monogamy may offer you some protection against contracting the virus, but the best way to prevent HPV is by getting vaccinated or through abstinence.

HPV vaccinations start around age 11 or 12 and are now approved for women and men up to age 45.

How do I know if I have HPV?

You may not know you have HPV. Many women don’t experience any symptoms, which is why HPV may be difficult to self-diagnose. We recommend Pap smears starting around age 21 to detect changes in your cervical cells that might indicate cancer.

Pap smears specific for HPV testing starts at age 30 and repeats until you’re 65. The clinic also offers STD screenings, in addition to the HPV specific test.

Genital warts may be the only indicator that you’ve contracted HPV.

What if my Pap smear is abnormal?

If your Pap smear test comes back abnormal, it may be recommend you get a colposcopy, which is a safe procedure that allows for close inspection of your cervix, vulva, and vagina.

The doctor examines the area for visual changes such as genital warts, precancerous cell changes, or inflammation. If the doctors observe anything suspicious, they may perform a biopsy to test for precancerous changes.

What is a LEEP?

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP, is a treatment that removes abnormal cells from your cervix to prevent cervical cancer.

To start, the doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina to view your cervix and applies numbing medication. Then, a small electrical loop scrapes the cancerous cells from your cervix, while cauterizing the blood vessels at the same time.

The procedure takes about 10 minutes, and most women experience very little pain.