HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus.
Some things to know about the virus:
- HPV is divided into 2 groups-high risk and low risk. High risk HPV is necessary but not the only thing that is needed for the progression to cervical cancer.
- Most HPV infections come and go and rarely proceed to cancer. Only a small number of HPV infections persist for 1 -2 years after initial infection. It has not yet been determined which factors increase the risk of persistent HPV infection but the likelihood of persistent HPV is increased with cigarette smoking, a compromised immune sys and HIV .
- HPV -16 has the highest risk of leading to the progression of cervical cancer. HPV 16 accounts for 55-60% of all cases of cervical cancer versus HPV-18, which accounts for 10-15% of the cases.
- HPV infection is most common in teenagers and women in the early 20’s. Women younger than 21 are considered to have an effective immune system to clear the virus on average 8 months after infection.
- Women with HPV infection older than 30 years old are more likely to have persistent infection.
- Cervical cancer screening or a pap smear should begin at age 21 except for women infected with HIV. Women less than 21 should not be screened regardless of age of first sexual contact or other behavior –related risk factors.
- Women 30 years of age and older should have a pap smear and HPV testing.
Rita Knause, MD is an Ob/Gyn specialist working in Bergen County.