Dr. Soliman describes the human papillomavirus (HPV) and explains if you could have HPV and not know.
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Not Knowing You Have HPV Hi, I am Pam Soliman. I am a gynecologic oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. So as a gynecologic oncologist I take care of women with female cancers that includesovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer and then also cancer of the vulva in vagina. As part of my job, I do both surgery as well as give chemotherapy for those disease sites. When I am talking to patients about cervical cancer many patients ask about the HPV or human papillomavirus. The way I explain it is it’s a virus that is very common in the general population. It is sexually transmitted, but at any given time, about 80 percent of women are exposed to HPV. The reason HPV is very important when you are discussing cervical cancer is it’s the biggest risk factor for the development of disease. So, about 99 percent of patients with cervix cancer have been exposed to the HPV virus. The other reason it’s important is that the HPV virus can be prevented with the new vaccine that’s recently been FDA approved. And so we think with implementation of the vaccine that we may be able to prevent a majority of patients who develop cervical cancer. Is it possible to have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and not know? It’s even possible for women to have the HPV virus and not even know it. In fact, most women can have the virus, have it for a temporary period of time. They get exposed and then their body’s immune system is able to clear the virus. And they never see any signs, symptoms or have no effects from having the virus itself. The critical part is when patient’s bodies aren’t able to clear the HPV and then it can lead to both precancerous as well as cervical cancer lesions.