By Roseanne Cruz, PT, DPT, LLCC
HPV, or human papilloma virus, is a common virus–more than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, six million new infections occur yearly in the United States, and about 20 million people–men and women–are thought to have an active HPV infection at any given time. Most women with an HPV infection will not develop cervical cancer, but it’s very important to have regular screening tests, including Pap and HPV tests as recommended. Cervical cancer is preventable if precancerous cell changes are detected and treated early, before cervical cancer develops. Cervical cancer is a slow-growing condition that usually takes years to progress. This is why getting screened on a regular basis is important; screening can usually catch any potential problems before they progress. Vaccines such as Gardasil® and Cervarix™ that are designed to prevent infection with high-risk types of HPV have the potential to greatly reduce the occurrence of cervical cancer. HPV vaccines will not eliminate all HPV or cervical cancer. The vaccines prevent the HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases. But there are other types of HPV (not covered in the vaccine) that could cause disease. HPV vaccines will NOT eliminate the need for cervical cancer screening, including Pap testing. Please visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition at http://www.nccc-online.org/ for more information.