Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the No.1 sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s so common that nearly everyone who’s sexually active will get it at some point — and for some, their diagnosis is high-risk.
Some strains of HPV are considered high-risk because they can increase your risk of cervical cancer and other types of cancer. Receiving a diagnosis of high-risk HPV can be scary, but you’re not alone.
Marc Wilson, MD, and our team at Women’s Health Specialists are here to answer your questions. Proper care and proactive measures can help you effectively manage your health, and here’s what to do next.
Understanding your high-risk HPV diagnosis
HPV encompasses a group of over 100 viruses transmitted through sexual contact. While most HPV infections clear up on their own without causing any harm, certain strains are classified as high-risk.
Types 6, 11, 16, and 18 are the most common high-risk strains. They have the potential to cause certain types of cancer, like cervical cancer and cancers of the vagina, vulva, and anus.
If you've been diagnosed with high-risk HPV, it means that a screening test, like a Pap smear or HPV test, detected the presence of one or more high-risk HPV strains in your cervical cells.
It's important to understand that your diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Instead, it signals the need for close monitoring and preventive measures to reduce your risk of cancer.
Lowering your risk of cancer after a high-risk HPV diagnosis
There are a few steps to take after getting a high-risk HPV diagnosis. Start by attending your follow-up appointment to review your abnormal Pap smear results. Dr. Wilson and our team explain your results, answer your questions, and recommend additional screenings as needed.
Together, we develop a proactive management plan to lower your risk of developing cancer. A few of the best ways to manage high-risk HPV are:
Getting regular Pap smears
Regular screenings are the best way to monitor changes in your cervical cells. Dr. Wilson recommends a screening schedule based on your age and medical history. Consistent Pap smears can help detect any abnormal cell changes early, enabling timely intervention if necessary.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
A strong immune system plays a significant role in combating HPV infections. Focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep.
Smoking weakens your immune system and can make it harder for your body to clear the HPV infection. If you smoke, quitting is one of the most beneficial steps you can take to reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other health issues.
Communicating with your sexual partners
It's essential to communicate honestly with your partners after getting an HPV diagnosis. Encourage them to get tested as well, and together, you can take steps to protect each other's health.
You may also consider reducing your number of sexual partners and making sure you’re consistently using condoms to lower your risk of HPV transmission.
Considering HPV vaccination
If you haven't already been vaccinated against HPV, ask Dr. Wilson about HPV vaccine. The vaccine can protect against certain high-risk HPV strains, and both women and men can get it up to age 26.
It’s normal to be worried after receiving a high-risk HPV diagnosis, but it doesn't have to define your health journey. Staying informed and taking preventive measures can significantly lower your risk of cervical cancer or other HPV-related complications.
Take charge of your well-being at Women’s Health Specialists in Denton, Texas. Call us at 940-202-0301 to schedule an appointment or send us a message online to learn more.