The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that attacks the skin cells and causes them to mutate and develop into warts. These warts are sometimes referred to as lesions, papillomas, or tumors. Most strains of HPV cause non-cancerous growths, but there are some strains of that are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) especially in women. Carcinogenic HPV infections in women can cause cervical cancer.
There are two types of HPV infections caused by different strains of the virus. There is the infection that’s spread through non-sexual touching and causes warts to appear on the arms, legs, hands, feet, and sometimes the face and neck. The most common strain for this type of infection is the HPV-1 strain. Warts from the HPV-1 strain might be unattractive and inconvenient, but they’re non-cancerous and safe.
The second type of HPV infection is called genital warts. Genital warts are spread through sexual touching, and are the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Men and women with genital HPV infections get warts over their outer and inner genitals, anal regions, inner thighs, and inside their mouths and throats.
Genital warts have two sub-categories of infections. The majority of genital warts are non-cancerous. But there are a few strains of HPV that can cause cancer. For reasons not entirely known, women are more susceptible to getting the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) versions of the virus. Some doctors speculate that the reason for this is that the virus thrives in warm, moist areas.
Since women are more likely to get cancer from genital HPV infections than men, most of the HPV test systems are geared towards finding the infection in women.
The HPV test systems most often performed
- Pap smears
- Soaking with acetic acid
Pap smear: A
Pap smear is a process done on women to find any abnormalities in the genital
area and cervix. The procedure involves the doctor scraping skin cells from the
cervix, along with any skin cells that have been shed into the vaginal fluid
(called exfoliated cells). The collected skin cells are carefully examined
under a microscope to see if any of them are diseased. Pap smears detect any
type of cervical skin abnormalities.
In the past, if an abnormality was detected but couldn’t be diagnosed, the woman would have to return to her doctor for a special HPV test. But now with the creation of the «thin Pap,» there’s often enough fluid left over from the original testing to complete an HPV DNA test without the woman having to receive a colposcopy or biopsy.
Currently the only HPV test approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States is the Digene® HPV Test which has the ability to test for 13 high-risk forms of HPV.
Colposcopy: Another diagnosis procedure done for women that involves using a special magnifying lens to examine cervical and vaginal tissue. This method is only good for diagnosing visible genital HPV infections.
Biopsy: A diagnosis method that involves taking a small sample of tissue from the genital area of men or women, but mostly women. The tissue sample is later examined under a microscope for abnormalities.
Acetic soaking: Acetic soaking involves soaking the genital area in men and women with a vinegar wash in order to see if there are any visible signs of an infection. Sometimes genital warts are hard to see because they’re smooth, flat and skin-colored. If the area turns white, then there’s possibility of an HPV infection. Further testing might be required.
- TheHPVTest.com : At theHPVtest.com, you will find information regarding HPV and cervical
cancer, testimony from cancer survivors and an opportunity to sign up
for an OBGYN appointment reminder.
This page was last updated:
Oct. 5, 2007It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.