What is HPV?
"Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that passes from person to person through skin-to-skin contact," Erin DuMontier, MD, explains. "More than 100 types of HPV have been found. About 30 of these types affect the genital areas of men and women and are spread through sexual contact. Approximately 12 types of HPV cause genital warts and approximately 15 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix as well as cancer of the vulva, anus, vagina, and head and neck. These types are known as 'high risk HPV types.'"
How does HPV cause cancer of the cervix?
"A thin layer of tissue made up of cells covers the cervix. HPV can enter these cells, if present, and cause damage resulting in growth of abnormal cells," Dr. DuMontier says. "The changes in the cells of the cervix are called 'dysplasia' or 'cervical intraepithelial neoplasia' or 'CIN.' In most women, the immune system destroys the virus before it causes cancer, but in some cases the immune system cannot and the HPV virus can lead to pre-cancer and then cancer. The Pap smear helps detect abnormal cervical cells and HPV. It is therefore very important to stay up to date on Pap smear screening as recommended by an OB-GYN."
What is the Gardasil vaccine and who should consider it?
"Gardasil is the trade name of the vaccine used for the prevention of certain strains of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), a sexually transmitted virus," Laura Donnelly, MD, says. "The specific strains are types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Strains 16 and 18 are considered 'high-risk' for the development of cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancer. Strains 6 and 11 are associated with genital warts."
What kind of vaccine is the Gardasil vaccine?
Laura Donnelly, MD, says "It is considered a prophylactic vaccine - meant to be given prior to the initiation of sexual activity. Thus, it is recommended for girls as young as 9 years old and through age 26. If a patient is known to have HPV, and has not received the vaccine, it is still recommended to help prevent infection with additional strains."
Laura Donnelly, MD, and Erin DuMontier, MD, are a part of BJC Medical Group and on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. They practice at the Sunset Hills location of OB-GYN Associates of St. Louis, located at 3844 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Suite 235, Sunset Hills, MO. To make an appointment or find out more about them, please call (314) 725 -9300 or book online for Dr. Donnelly here >> or Dr. DuMontier here >>
To read other FAQs from the OB-GYNs, like breast health and pregnancy, click here.