It is that time for the annual visit to the OB/GYN. Well, for me it had been three years since my last exam. My appointment literally kept getting pushed back, and between my doctor bringing new babies into the world and things popping up for me, time had escaped me. I got to my appointment, did all the pre-discussions with the nurse, got undressed, and hopped on the table. My awesome doctor came in, the lady who ran down the hallway to perform an emergency C-section when my child was born, and we just started catching up.
For my exam, she did a Pap smear and an HPV test. Ok cool, thanks for inserting the awkward thing up there. Awesome, yes the kid is good, ok, all done. My results would take about a week, go on with your life. Life moves on, work takes over, then I get an email saying I have new test results available. Sweet! Log in, click on the test results and in big giant ugly bold letters I see POSITIVE for HPV HIGH RISK 18. What in the world is that?
Let’s ask the old Google…
“What is HPV?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 strains of the virus, most of them do not cause cancer. The virus lives on your skin and is spread during intimate genital contact. Because HPV lives on your skin, condoms don’t fully protect you from it.”
What the what? So after my divorce, I went through what some would call a “hoe phase.” Yes, I used protection with every single one, but apparently that didn’t matter. I read on…
“Other strains of HPV are known as high risk. In women, these strains can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, and anus, as well as head and neck cancers. Almost all cases of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus.”
My test said high risk, so now what, I could have cancer? Read on more…
“What’s my cancer risk?
Our experts say, the most important thing to know if you have HPV is that the risk of cancer is very small, but should be taken seriously.
“Don’t panic and don’t ignore it,” says Lois Ramondetta, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. “Make sure you follow up with your doctor on the next steps and try to keep things in perspective. If you have HPV, there’s a very good chance it won’t be a long-term problem for you. Your immune system will attack the virus and it will likely be gone within two years. Of the millions of cases of HPV diagnosed every year, only a small number become cancer. Most of those cases are cervical cancer.”
Millions of people have joined the hoe phase, ok, got it…
“Protect yourself from HPV. The best way to protect yourself from HPV-related cancers is to get the HPV vaccine. All males and females ages 9–26 should get the HPV vaccine. It is most effective when given at ages 11–12. Unvaccinated men and women ages 27–45 should talk to their doctor about the benefits of the vaccine.”
I am in my mid to late thirties; I can’t tell you for the life of me if I got the vaccine. I am going to go with no as this didn’t seem like a “thing” until recently or when I started seeing commercials on TV for it. Please don’t make the mistake I did and push back your appointments because, well life. I am going to treat this with the care of my doctors and I hope this brought some education into your life. I know it did for me.