Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV infects your cervix and causes cervical cancer, all without causing any symptoms. That’s why Victoria Mills, DO, at Mills Obstetrics & Gynecology, recommends that women get routine Pap smears, which screen for HPV and cervical cancer. To schedule your Pap smear or annual well-woman exam, call the office in Oklahoma City or book an appointment online.
HPV is transmitted through sexual contact with a person who has the virus. Most of the time, your body naturally clears HPV out of your body, so it doesn’t cause problems.
When your immune system doesn’t take care of an HPV infection, it causes genital warts and cervical cancer. It may also lead to vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers.
HPV infections don’t cause symptoms until they’ve progressed and you develop:
Warts usually appear on your external genitalia but may also develop inside your vagina or on your cervix. Genital warts can be removed, and they’re not cancerous.
When HPV invades the cells in your cervix, it causes abnormal cell growth that gradually progresses to become cancer. You won’t have symptoms at the early stage of cervical cancer. As the cancer worsens, you’ll develop:
Women with cervical cancer may also experience pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse.
The best way to test for HPV is with a routine Pap smear. To take a Pap smear, Dr. Mills removes a sample of cells from your cervix and then sends it to a lab where a specialist examines the sample for signs of abnormal cellular changes.
When your Pap results indicate mild changes, Dr. Mills may run an HPV test or wait a short time and do another Pap test to see if the infection has healed.
If your Pap smear shows moderate to severe changes or a second Pap test still shows cellular changes, Dr. Mills performs a colposcopy.
During a colposcopy, Dr. Mills uses a binocular-type instrument to get a magnified view of your cervix. If she sees abnormal cells, she removes them and takes a biopsy, which is the only way to accurately diagnose the underlying problem.
To schedule a Pap smear or your yearly well-woman exam, call Mills Obstetrics & Gynecology or book an appointment online.