Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Care Instructions

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus. There are many types of HPV. Some types cause the common skin wart. Other types cause genital warts, which can be spread by sexual contact. Some types can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as cervical or anal cancer. Having one type of HPV doesn't lead to having another type.

Many people who have HPV don't know that they're infected. It's often found with a cervical cancer screening test, such as an HPV test.

If an HPV screening test finds that you have a type of HPV that might lead to cancer, your doctor may suggest more tests. This doesn't mean you'll get cancer. But it means that you may have an increased risk. Abnormal cell changes caused by HPV often go away on their own. If they don't, they can be treated.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Use a condom every time you have sex. Use it from the start to the end of sexual contact.
  • Be sure to tell your sexual partner or partners that you have HPV. Even if you don't have symptoms, you can still pass HPV to others.
  • Limit how many sex partners you have. The safest practice is to have only one sex partner who doesn't have STIs and doesn't have sex with anyone else. This lowers your risk of getting STIs.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking increases the risk for cervical problems and cervical cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have vaginal pain during or after sex.
  • You have vaginal bleeding when you are not in your menstrual period.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.