Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmited disease, or STD. This extremely common infection affects the genitals of men and women and in some instances can lead to genital warts and cancer.
HPV: what you should know
- You can get HPV from sex (vaginal, anal and oral sex) and genital-to-genital contact.
- The good news: HPV goes away in most cases. The bad news: You may not know you have it because HPV symptoms may not surface for years.
- HPV can lead to genital warts; anal warts; warts in the throat (recurrent respiratory papillomatosis); cervical cancer, head and neck cancers, and other cancers.
- To find HPV before it becomes a problem, doctors recommend regular screening for women 30 and older (and women with abnormal Pap tests).
- Women who are 26 and younger may opt to have an HPV vaccine (e.g., Gardasil). The Centers for Disease Control advises that boys and girls begin getting vaccinated around 11 or 12.
How can I get help for HPV?
Your primary care doctor, OB-GYN or urogynecologist can discuss vaccination options as well as screening for HPV (which is typically done at the same time as your Pap test). He or she can also recommend prevention tips (e.g, latex condoms, limiting sexual partners, abstinence).
Call your doctor if you have the following:
- Sexual contact with someone with HPV
- Soft, moist genital (in or near the cervix, vulva or vagina) warts or anal warts
- Warts in your throat
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Care for HPV at Rush
In addition to providing vaccinations and screening, doctors at Rush treat problems arising from HPV infection. For example, specialists at Rush have expertise in caring for patients with cervical cancer as well as head and neck cancers.
Treatment options for cancer patients include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy — alone or in combination. The exact treatment plan depends on the cancer stage and your wishes. At Rush, cancer care is tailored to each patient.
Why choose Rush for HPV care
- Maternal-fetal medicine doctors and OB-GYNs at Rush have expertise in caring for pregnant women with HPV. They deliver babies at the new and spacious Rush Family Birth Center, where all services related to having babies are located on one floor.
- Head and neck cancer specialists in the Rush University Cancer Center can provide a full range of treatments (including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery) for patients with HPV-related cancer.
- At the Rush University Cancer Center, gynecologic oncologists specialize in treating HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancer and vulva cancer. They investigate new ways to screen, diagnose and treat cancers affecting women’s reproductive systems, including robotic surgery (da Vinci).
- Rush is home to comprehensive clinics for gynecologic cancer and head and neck cancers. In these clinics, different cancer specialists gather to share their opinions to tailor treatment plans for each patient.