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Questions from June 2009

Christine Snider 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.

Christine

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.

doug Asks:

How long after having sex will the virus show up. If I have been having sex with someone for 6 months is it possible that I gave it to her?

The answer to your question is not known.  It is not known what the ‘transmission efficacy’ of HPV is.  That is, we do not know the rate by which people actually get an infection for each exposure to the virus.  This is in contract to other sexually transmitted microbes, where an exposure often results in infection.  There is another unknown about HPV infections to complicate matters. If an HPV shows up at a later time, it is not clear whether this HPV infection is new or a reactivation of an old HPV infection. We have a lot yet to learn about HPV.  To reduce your and your partner’s risk of getting HPV, see the assessing your risk section of our web site, www.cervicalcancercampaign.org/ccfacts/risk.html.

sabah Asks:

Will the vaccinations have any side effects in the future. Also after a set number of years will l have to redo any vaccinations.

Studies show that the vaccine is extremely safe. There is no live virus in the vaccine. The most common side effects that occur right after receiving the injection are redness and soreness where the shot was given. Headaches (like when you have a cold or fever) can also happen. Rarely, fever can also occur. Over-the-counter pain and fever medications will help if you have symptoms. As with any new vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA will continue to monitor HPV vaccination for long term effects.  One of the questions that they will be looking to answer is the same one you’ve asked, that is, how long will this vaccination last and will a booster be needed in future years.  After seven years of research, the efficacy of the vaccine appears to be lasting.                                                                                                                                                         

sabah Asks:

If l took 2 of the vaccinations, and become pregnant a while after the second vaccination,  do l have to redo the vaccinations after l have given birth. Will this be ok, or will it have side effects

No, you don’t need to start the vaccination series all over again. You should proceed to get the last vaccine after pregnancy.  In fact, you should receive the HPV vaccine as soon as you can after pregnancy.  If you are breastfeeding, the CDC recommends you can still get vaccinated while lactating.

Sandy Asks:

I have just gotten the loop procedure done to remove precancerous cells caused by HPV. Will I ever be able to have sex with my boyfriend again or will there always be the risk of contracting HPV again from him?

Yes, you will be able to have sex again.  However, there is still a lot we do not know about HPV. Most experts think that the HPV virus doesn't 'ping-pong' back and forth between the same partners. The LEEP or Cone procedures do not get rid of your HPV infection, only the abnormal cells resulting from persistent HPV infection.  Condoms do offer some protection against HPV transmission, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. But HPV can be spread through genital contact and that contact can occur outside of the area covered by a condom. So condoms don't offer complete protection against HPV, but they might offer you some peace of mind. 

 

It is thought, though, that after a LEEP or a Cone procedure, your body will mount an effective immune response to assist in clearing the virus. That is why these procedures are so effective, and cervical abnormalities rarely come back after such procedures in women with working immune systems. But this does not happen in all women and it is impossible, at this time, to predict who will have a persistent HPV infection which may lead to a recurrence of abnormal cells. That is why you need to talk about your concerns with your provider and continue to take good care of yourself and get regular checkups and Pap tests, especially if you have had a procedure for abnormal cervical cells.

cristina luz Asks:

Is it safe to have the cervical cancer vaccine if I've had a vaccine like the pneumococal vaccine recently?  Do I have to wait to get it?

From what we know from studies conducted on the cervical cancer vaccine so far, it appears to be safe to get the cervical cancer vaccine along with other vaccines (co-administration).  Long term studies will continue.

lisa Asks:

I have been married for 20 years and just gave birth to my fifth child 6 weeks ago. I went for my Pap and was called back and told I have HPV and pre-cancerous cells. I have had a normal Pap for years. Can it be dormant for that long?

You ask a question that is on the mind of a lot of women upon hearing that they have unexpected results from their Pap test.  In most women infected with HPV, the cells in the cervix return to normal after the body's immune system has eliminated the HPV infection of forced it into latency without the woman ever having any signs or symptoms of the HPV.  However, some HPV infections do not fo away and may remian present in the cervical cells for year, without causing any abnormalities most of the time. Most HPV infections clear up within 2 years, some sooner, some longer. Long-standing infection can lead to changes in the cells that can progress to cancer if not treated. If is these cell changes taht a Pap test can detect. Make sure that you follow up with your doctor to get the treatment recommended so taht your pre-cancer cells don't turn into cancer.  Your actions can prevent cervical cancer.

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