June 20, 2009,
J.M. asks from Los Angeles, CA on June 17, 2009
HPV Virus at Age 38?
I found out yesterday that I have the HPV virus and am stunned. I've been with my husband for 13 years and he has only been with me as well. I have just started to do research but am finding that it can be dormant for up to 20 years. I am going back to my OBGYN in 3 weeks for further testing and hopefully I don't have Cervical Cancer. How can this be possible? I am shocked and scared, not knowing what to do. Have any of you dealt with this before?
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R.L. answers from Los Angeles on June 18, 2009
There are over 100 HPV types, but only 14 types are considered high risk -- that is, associated with, and probably causal, of cervical, penile, and anal cancers. These types have also been found to be associated with certain types of lung and throat cancers, as well. The 14 types of concern are: HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-31, HPV-33, HPV-35, HPV-39, HPV-45, HPV-51, HPV-52, HPV-56, HPV-58, HPV-59, HPV-68, HPV-69.
There are also several low-risk types that cause genital warts. These are: HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-40, HPV-42, HPV-43, HPV-44, HPV-54, HPV-61, HPV-72, HPV-81.
Specific antibody testing can only tell if some kind of HPV is present (this testing is standard as part of one's annual exam). The different types can only be determined by taking samples of dysplastic tissue (generally by Papp smear) and using very sensitive molecular tests to "read" the viral DNA (genome). This can be very costly, so the test may not be done unless it is specifically requested by the patient or doctor. Often, doctors will take a "wait and see" approach, taking cervical samples 4 - 6 months apart, looking for changes in levels of dysplasia and cancerous cells. There are a couple of tests that I'm aware of on the market right now: HPVDetx offered by Esoterix, Inc. (test is performed by their lab, I think) and Roche's method using Amplicor (large labs like Quest probably offer this one).
Even if you are found to have a high-risk variant, this doesn't mean that you will develop cancer. 90% of the people infected with a high-risk type of HPV will clear the virus on their own, although the virus may not actually be fully cleared, but simply be dormant. Dormancy means that the virus is not actively replicating (reproducing itself within your cells), so there's not enough of it being shed to detect it. BUT, current thinking is that, like with HBV and HCV, the virus only has the potential for causing cancer if it is a chronic, nonresolving infection and is actively replicating.
BTW, there are several articles in the medical literature that suggests that HPV can be passed nonsexually. In a 1999 paper by Sonnex et al, they isolated low-risk HPV from the finger tips and under the finger nails of patients with active genital warts. The virus is shed by infected genital skin, which is how it is transmitted sexually (skin-to-skin contact is necessary, in fact). So if you shake hands with someone who has an active infection and has less than perfect hygienic habits, there is actually the possibility of contracting the virus from them. (I will leave the details to your imagination.) Also, pulmonary (lung) pappillomas may be caused by inhaled HPV. High-risk HPV can also be transmitted vertically, that is, from mother to fetus in the womb, or more likely, as with HSV (genital herpes), from mother to newborn during passage through the birth canal. It may be this transmission that is responsible for HPV-associated lung pappilloma in children.
One bright spot on the horizon for our daughters (and our sons, by extension!) has been the development of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against 2 of the most common types of low-risk HPV (6 and 11) and 2 of the most common types of high-risk HPV (16 and 18). The vaccine is only effective if it is given before infection, which is why it is recommended for girls age 9 and over. I got my daughter vaccinated less than a month after the vaccine became available (she was 12 at the time). As a person who specializes in infectious disease, the RELIABLE body of research clearly shows that there are far fewer and less severe risks associated with immunizations as they're manufactured and given today, than there are from the dangers of many of the diseases if you were to actually contract them.
Before any of the vaccines-and-the-pharma-companies-that-produce-them-are-evil-greedy-b***ds-and-are-bad brigade want to try to "educate" me about this, you need to understand that this is about RELATIVE risks. Yes, some children (and adults) can have adverse reactions to vaccines and these can be severe, and even fatal. But the relative risks of this happening are very, very, small compared to the relative risk of equal or worse outcomes from contracting most of the diseases we currently have vaccinations for. That's why scientists and doctors have worked for so long to develop vaccines. The diseases they have focused on can be killers or have substantial impact on quality of life for the long term (OK, I DO have some reservations about the necessity of the chicken pox vaccine). The fact that we don't see the high death rate from diseases such as tetanus, polio, measles, and Rubella any more is because we have had such successful vaccination programs in this country for the last 50 years. It is NOT because these diseases have mysteriously weakened or died out on their own. If you want to argue with me on this one, I will entertain your thoughts after you've completed 5 or 6 years of graduate school in immunology or epidemiology. (Sorry for the diatribe, J.! It's not directed at you.)
1 mom found this helpful
A.C. answers from San Diego on June 18, 2009
Please do not make the same mistake that I made in your shoes. 4 years ago I found out I had hpv the higher strains of it and I have been married in a monogamous relationship for over 10 years. With the fear of the disease and the nature of it I started thinking that I was going to get cancer and/or my husband must have been unfaithful. All my friends contracted hpv within a year of being unfaithful. There is such little evidence of dormancy that I have found, but after dragging myself and family into a great depression of nearly losing everything My latest nurse told me it is rare but very possible. It took alot of counseling prayer and trust to get over it all.
The hpv usually goes away on it's own. Mine did and everyone I have ever known has seen it go away. Don't let this scare you or fill you with fear. I love my children and husband so much the hpv really filled my life with fear and It truly was one of the biggest nightmares of my life. It has been 3 years without hpv or irregular paps. another child and alot to be grateful for. good luck to you the key is truly to stay positive and mentally kick out the negative thoughts that come from this diagnosis or any for that matter.
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J.L. answers from Los Angeles on June 18, 2009
Talk to your doc. I don't want to say not to worry at all but... My first PAP was abnormal when I was 17. I was a virgin. nothing down there EVER at all. Not even tampons I was totally freaked out by them. Anyway I has a biopsy and some tests. Biopsy came back fine but I tested positive for HPV. Ever since then I have never had an abnormal PAP. I am 27. My doc has told me that obviously there are other ways to get HPV. Also there are only a handful or so that cause cervical cancer. You may have to have PAPs more often. After a few normals you can have them less often. The really good news that you are aware that you need to be attentive to your health. If something bad does end up happening down the line it probably will be very treatable. definitely dont freak out about it until you have a really good talk with your doc. That can make things worse. I really hope you don't have anything that will cause any problems. The best to you.
R.F. answers from Los Angeles on June 18, 2009
I, too went through the same thing awhile back but have been fine for over 10 years now. It was the scariest thing I have ever gone through but I am somewhat obsessive about things sometimes. Anyway, don't worry. Everything is going to be fine. You'd be surprised how common this really is. And I have had 2 kids since. The thing that is awesome, is that they are now vaccinating pre-teens and teens for this strain. Hopefully our children will be free from the worry we have experienced. So promise that you'll just handle it and continue to be happy.
S.T. answers from San Diego on June 18, 2009
Hi J.. Yes, I found out I had the HPV virus when I was 30, about 6 months before I got pregnant with my son. I had only been sexually active with my then boyfriend (now husband) for the previous couple of years, and had few partners before that. I was terrified as well, but found out that around 3/4 of all sexually active people have it (or have had it). I also found out at the time that there were some preliminary changes in my cervical cells that the doctor called precancer- also terrifying. He said to take a wait and see approach and to recheck me in 3 months. So 3 months later I no longer had the virus and didn't have any abnormal cells. I got checked every 6 months for 2 years after that (though minus the period of time I was pregnant). Everything has been fine ever since. I hope this helps calm your nerves and I hope it works out his simply for you as well. Take care.
M.B. answers from Los Angeles on June 18, 2009
I was also shocked when they told me I had HPV- I was a virgin until I was married, but my husband has had 2 previous sexual partners. I was pregnant at the time when my pap came back abnormal, so they did a procedure- I can't even remember what it was called, to gather some cells for testing. It came back with the low result, and once my daughter was born, paps came back totally normal. My OB said that it appears sometimes when the hormones fluctuate, and can disappear after delivering, as it did in my case. I would say don't worry- medicine has advanced so much that even when there is a problem, it doesn't take long to come up with a cure/solution. Hang in there. It can be rather disconcerting to receive news like that, but take heart- it can disappear as quickly as it came!
J.C. answers from Los Angeles on June 18, 2009
Jacki~ I am 36 and went to the OB because I thought I had a hemorrhoid that wouldn't go away after I had my baby. I came to find out that I had HPV as well on my "Fanny" no less argharghargh I asked and the Dr. said what does this mean? She said have it removed and make sure it doesn't come back so I don't get "rectal cancer". I am a advocate of Homeopathy and went directly to the homeopath after my visit since it can cure these types of things and regular medicine just burns it out or cuts it out and then it's the wait and see approach. I do know HPV is a virus and when your immune system changes or gets low, and yes it does lie dormant and it's super common, Virus don't ever go away.The homeopath gave me a remedy and I have never had one recurrence. I say get all outward signs removed and then go see a homeopath to make it disappear forever. The cancer thing is routine because the 2 go hand in hand, don't worry. If you need a referral write me.
M.K. answers from San Diego on June 18, 2009
I tested positive for HPV when I was about 24. I'm 34 now. Following this I had a mildly abnormal pap. I had another pap 1 month later and it was totally clear. I have never had a symptom at all. I never would have known about it had it not been for the test. I was worried too in the beginning but now I don't even think about it. I think the body adapts.
I understand your concern!