Questions from Readers: Miscellaneous

Katelyn asks:  
I got diagnosed with low grade HPV with pre-cancerous cells. I got the leep 6 months ago and it came back. Now I am a smoker but I’m only 17 and take a multivitamin. Shouldn’t my being so young still kick the HPV?

A female who smokes has a higher chance of getting cervical cancer. Research has shown that the cervix is affected by the nicotine in cigarettes in much the same way as the lungs.  It is also known that cigarettes can impair the immune system’s ability to fight the HPV infection.  So if you have HPV, you should definitely think about quitting. It will help you prevent that HPV infection from developing to the stage of cancer. It would be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your questions, as well. He/she is in the best position to advise you. Also ask about getting vaccinated.

Ashley asks:  
If I have HPV but don’t have warts and neither does my boyfriend, will I for sure get them? Or do only some people?

There are over 100 different types of HPV viruses.  Some cause warts, some can cause cervical cancer if not treated. But the same type does not cause both warts and cervical cancer.  If neither you nor your boyfriend have genital warts now and you do not have sex with anyone else, you are not likely to get that type of HPV.

Lola asks:  
I recently found out that I have High Risk HPV (no warts though). Does having that mean I’ll get genital warts? I’m on my 2nd shot of Gardasil & I quit smoking.  Will that help get rid of it? Can I get rid of it?

There are many different types of HPV. The different types cause different problems. The high risk type that you’ve been told you have can cause cervical cancer if it persists and is not treated. But it doesn’t cause warts. Warts are caused by a different type of HPV. (They all have different numbers.)  The vaccine will protect you against getting additional types of HPV but it doesn’t get rid of the types you already have. To protect yourself against the high risk HPV type you already have, make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Ali asks: 
I’ve been diagnosed with several types of HPV including one with risk for cancer. Does having more types of HPV at once increase my chances to get abnormal cells?

For most women HPV testing is done with a non-specific probe that will be ‘positive’ if she has been infected with one or with many HPV types. So most women having an HPV test will not know which type of HPV they have. There are no currently available HPV typing tests that indicate the type of HPV you may have outside of research protocols, with the exception of a more specific probe for HPV 16 and HPV 18.   In prospective studies using research-grade HPV typing tests, it has been shown that if infected, the vast majority of women are infected with only one HPV type.   It is currently unclear if cell transformation in women with more than one HPV type increases the chances of HPV and CIN persistence.

Christine asks:  
Hello, I have been diagnosed with low level HPV. I am currently trying to boost my immune system to get cured. However, will having sex aggravate this condition? I do not think I have any warts or lesions.

Sex will not aggravate your condition. But if you do have sex, you can reduce your chance of getting another strain of the HPV virus by having sex with only one partner, who also only has sex with you. If you are not in such a monogamous relationship, you can reduce your risk by limiting the number of partners you have and choosing only partners who have a limited number of partners.

You can also protect against getting infected with another HPV strain by using a condom during sex. This will give you some protection against HPV, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that may increase your risk of cervical cancer. In addition to vaccination and regular screening, consistent condom use has been shown to reduce the risk of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV infection.

Another important way to fight off your HPV infection is not to smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit. And if you don’t smoke, don’t think about starting.

Spotlight

This special section in Self Magazine features a GYN surgeon and 34-year-old (at the time of diagnosis) patient.

Awareness

This year’s National Race to End Women’s Cancer aims to spread the word that all women should Love Your Ladyparts! Check out site’s new features and join the MOVEMENT.

Research

The Foundation’s research award winners will be notified in January. Thank you to all who sent in their applications.

Education

The next Gynecologic Cancer Survivors Course will be February 7-8 in Anchorage, Alaska. For more information on educational events and courses, click here.