Double Sunrise Young Women's Health: early teen to college years

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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

This is the most common viral sexually transmitted disease (STD). A recent estimate is that 25-40% of sexually active young women have HPV. This is the virus that causes Genital Warts. This virus is very contagious. Because there are over 80 strains of the HPV they vary greatly in appearance. Some look just like warts (being cauliflower in appearance) and others are flat and round. Symptoms may appear in a few weeks or it may take several years to show. (The average is 8.5 months).

What's most concerning is that many strains of the infection can not be seen at all, and that is why a young woman who has been sexually active even once, should have a pelvic exam. HPV that can't be seen visually, can sometimes be detected from a Pap smear. Many young women have an abnormal Pap smear because of genital warts or HPV (that may be invisible) on the cervix. These can develop into cervical cellular changes and without treatment, some can eventually evolve to cancer. That's why it is important to have a pelvic exam even if you have been sexually active once.

Also, if your practitioner has told you that you need to follow up with further visits, it is very important that you do so. Treatment for HPV can remove all the abnormal cells, yet can only be done by a doctor or nurse practitioner. The treatment depends on your return.

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