Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is really a blanket term for a common sexually transmitted infection that affects an estimated 79 million people.
HPV is acquired through sexual contact. It can cause genital warts, but it can still be passed on even if the infected person shows no signs and has no warts or other symptoms.
Although the majority of infections don’t cause cancer, some kinds of genital HPV are definitively linked to cervical, anal, throat, and other cancers.
Because of this, Dr. Peter Khamvongsa includes routine screening for HPV when you visit the Miami Institute of Urogynecology and Minimally Invasive Surgery for a well-woman exam. He also takes this time to educate you about HPV and how to prevent it.
HPV’s varied symptoms
The encouraging news is that your body’s hardworking immune system usually zaps an HPV infection before it has a chance to take hold, but genital warts are a hallmark of the virus. Some cause discomfort while others are unnoticeable.
Genital warts are typically painless and appear as a cluster on the penis and around the anus in men and on the vulva, labia, and cervix in women. They can be flat, or raised and similar to the texture or a cauliflower.
It’s important to be diligent about scheduling your well-woman exams. During the exam, Dr. Khamvongsa checks for any sign of genital warts and talks to you about your sexual history.
HPV and cervical cancer
HPV is to blame for the vast majority of cervical cancer diagnoses, but cervical cancer can take up to two decades to develop into a visible, diagnosable condition. So, early cervical cancer really isn’t easily observed.
Your best defense is the Pap test because it samples cervical cells. It can uncover suspicious signs of precancer, which enable your doctor to eradicate it early.
We advise that you get a Pap test every three years. The process is simple, painless, and quick, with Dr. Khomvongsa taking a cervical cell sample from you with a small brush or spatula-like device.
If your results are in any way abnormal, Dr. Khomvongsa performs an advanced colposcopy. This is a noninvasive diagnostic procedure where he takes a small cervical tissue sample so it can be biopsied.
Dr. Khomvongsa uses a state-of-the-art piece of medical technology to administer this test — the DYSISⓇ Colposcope. With it, he can view a live image of the tissue he’s concerned about and examine it more closely than traditional testing has allowed in the past.
The sophisticated DYSIS mapping software points out suspicious spots. This tool is pivotal in helping him create your treatment plan if cancerous cells are found.
The prognosis for cervical cancer is good, now that we have preventive measures and diagnostic tests to help us catch HPV-related cancer as early as possible.
Effective HPV prevention
In addition to getting screened for HPV, there’s another game-changing preventive step available: the three-dose HPV vaccine. It’s generally advised for boys and girls who are 10-12 years old, and adults up to age 26.
If you’re experiencing suspected symptoms of HPV, or you simply want to talk about your HPV risk, make an appointment with Dr. Khamvongsa. Call us at 786-220-8664 or book an appointment online. We continue to observe COVID-19 precautions to ensure your safety.