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I've Tested Positive for High-Risk HPV: What Now?

I've Tested Positive for High-Risk HPV: What Now?

We understand that learning you have high-risk HPV can be shocking, but don’t let the initial news distract you from taking positive steps forward. And don’t go it alone.

Dr. James Lee and our team at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care in Woodstock, Georgia, offer holistic care that treats you as a whole person — body, mind, and spirit. 

Our comprehensive services include men’s health, women’s health, family medicine, and diagnostic testing, so we’ve got you covered. 

From HPV screening and diagnostic testing to acute care and specialist referrals, we’re on your team, and we guide you through the next steps after testing positive for high-risk HPV. 

Take a moment to learn the facts about your condition and what to expect in the days and months ahead.

What you need to know about HPV

Human papillomavirus, commonly shortened to HPV, is a group of related viruses classified by numbers — there are over 200 types — with each specific type causing different symptoms. 

While some forms of HPV cause warts on the skin, others hang out on your body's mucous membranes — the wet layers that line the openings of your body, like your mouth, throat, anus, and vagina. Known as genital HPV, these types don't usually make their home on your skin. 

Low-risk HPV

Although no one wants HPV, low-risk HPV is preferable because it's not the kind that causes cancer but can give you genital warts. 

Men and women alike can get these warty nuisances around their private parts or bums, but ladies may also find them on their cervixes or vaginas. Don't worry — low-risk HPV viruses won't lead to a scary cancer diagnosis.

High-risk HPV

Thirteen types of HPV viruses are considered “high-risk” and can lead to cancer — especially cervical cancer in women. These high-risk HPVs, such as HPV 16 and 18, cause cell changes and pre-cancers that are more likely to develop into tumors over time. 

Because of this, Dr. Lee monitors these potentially dangerous strains of the virus. It's important to take preventive measures and get regular check-ups and vaccinations. 

HPV: Why me?

HPV is extremely contagious and transfers through skin-to-skin contact, usually during all kinds of sexual activity — vaginal, anal, and oral — even when you don’t see signs or symptoms of the infection. Rarely, you can also get the virus through genital contact without sexual activity. 

Most sexually active men and women acquire at least one type of genital HPV at some point. Even those who have had sex with only one person or delayed their sexual activity until marriage are still at risk of HPV. The more sexual partners you’ve had, the higher your likelihood of contracting the virus. 

Will HPV go away on its own?

Your immune system can fight off HPV before you even know you’re infected. About 90% of HPV infections go away and become undetectable within two years. 

But exposure to a high-risk strain could hang around in your system and increase your risk for HPV-related cancers. And anything that weakens your immune system can make it harder to clear the HPV infection. 

Keep in mind that you can beef up your immune system by staying active, eating well, getting enough rest, and managing stress.

What to do after receiving a positive test for high-risk HPV

The good news is that precancerous cell changes and cervical cancer develop slowly, so there’s no need to make any rash decisions. 

The next step is to heighten your HPV monitoring routine, and Dr. Lee can help with that, keeping a close eye on the virus’s progression and checking to see if it clears on its own.

For women over 30 years of age who receive a high-risk HPV diagnosis, Dr. Lee may recommend a colposcopy, an examination of your cervix using a microscope to look for any suspicious-looking cells. 

If we detect something out of the ordinary, we take a biopsy for further testing. Depending on your biopsy results, Dr. Lee may repeat testing, recommend treatment, or refer you to a specialist. 

The important thing to know about your positive HPV test is that sticking to your screening schedule and strengthening your immune system are crucial. So, take a deep breath and trust Dr. Lee to see you through the process.

Schedule an appointment to learn more about your high-risk HPV diagnosis and how to deal with it. Call or click to book your consultation.

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