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Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Care Instructions


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 for cervical and anal cancer. Having one type of HPV doesn't lead to having another type.

Many women who have HPV may not know that they're infected until it's found with a Pap test. If you've had an abnormal Pap test, your doctor may recommend that you have an HPV test.

If the HPV test finds that you have the types 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 or nurse call line 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?

  • If you are going to have a Pap or HPV test, do not douche or use tampons or vaginal creams in the 24 hours before the test.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases the risk for cervical problems and abnormal Pap tests. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. Use them from the beginning to the end of sexual contact.
  • Be sure to tell your sexual partner or partners that you have HPV. Even if you do not have symptoms, you can still pass HPV to others.
  • Having one sex partner (who does not have STIs and does not have sex with anyone else) is a good way to avoid STIs.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line 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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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.