There is no treatment for the virus itself, but the body's immune system is usually able to fight it off within a few years. There are treatments, however, for the diseases the virus causes. Genital warts can be removed using chemicals, by freezing them or burning them off electrically, or via surgery or lasers. For most people, this treatment will clear the warts. If warts return repeatedly, the doctor may try injecting them with the drug interferon. Untreated genital warts can disappear on their own, stay the same, or grow in size and number and cluster in large masses.
Abnormal Pap smears can be treated in a variety of ways, from monitoring over a period of months to see if they return to normal, to cryosurgery that freezes and destroys infected cells in the cervix, to surgical removal of problem tissue. Catching cervical changes early is the key to avoiding cervical cancer, which is more difficult to treat.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines that protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. One of the vaccines also protects against types 6 and 11, which cause about 90% of genital warts. The FDA has approved both vaccines for use in girls and women 9 to 26 years old, and the second vaccine for prevention of genital warts in boys and men 9 through 26 years old. The vaccines are given in three doses over a period of six months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that both girls and boys receive HPV vaccines between ages 11 and 12 and that those age 13 to 21 who haven't had the vaccine be immunized.
The FDA says the vaccines are considered safe but are only effective if given before an initial exposure to the virus. AAP recommends that young people who are sexually active still receive the vaccination as those already infected with one type of HPV infection may benefit from the protection against other types included in the vaccine.
Men are not routinely screened for HPV infection unless they fall into a category at high risk for cancer, such as those with compromised immune systems or who have sex with men. Currently, there are no tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to detect HPV in males; however, some specialty labs have validated DNA tests for analyzing anal swabs from males.
5. Other than HPV, what are other risk factors for cervical cancer in women?
According to the National Cancer Institute, certain factors can further raise cervical cancer risk after an HPV infection. These include having many children, long-term oral contraceptive use, and chronic inflammation.
Increased risk is also associated with beginning sexual intercourse at an early age, having multiple sexual partners, infrequent Pap smears, smoking, a history of DES exposure, previous diagnosis of cervical cancer, compromised immune system from organ transplant or HIV, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes.
This article was last reviewed on June 13, 2012. | This article was last modified on February 12, 2015.
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