Gynecology FAQs

What is the HPV virus?

HPV or human papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted virus which has been implicated as the cause of cervical cancer. Sexually active women have a 50-75% chance of being infected with HPV during their lifetime. There are over 100 serotypes of the virus. Some are more virulent than others. Most will cause no changes to the cervix. Some will cause only inflammation or other low grade changes in the cervix. Some will cause venereal warts. A select group of high- risk HPV subtypes are considered more virulent and likely to cause changes in the cervix. Some important things to remember are:

  • It can be years before changes by the HPV are seen. Most likely, no changes are ever seen.
  • The vast majority of patients with HPV will never get cervical cancer.
  • Your immune system will likely clear the virus to the point it is undetectable.
  • Smoking cigarettes enhances the virus's ability to cause tissue changes.
  • A pap smear is a screening test for tissue changes caused by the virus; colposcopy is the diagnostic test. If you have dysplasia on colposcopic biopsy, you have HPV.
  • There is a procedure available for the detection of the virus alone.