We offer HPV testing and treatment by an specialist consultant gynaecologist at our private clinics in Central London, UK.
What is HPV?
HPV stands for the human papilloma or wart virus. The name refers to a common group of viruses that can infect the skin, the genitals and the mouth and throat. HPV is important because the viruses are linked to the development of some cancers. HPV is not a single virus, there are many different types. Well over a hundred have been identified, with each one known by a specific number.
Certain types of HPV tend to affect different parts of the body. HPV 1, 2 and 4 cause warts on the hands or verrucas on the feet. There are more than forty types of HPV that can infect the genitals including the vagina and the cervix.
HPV 6 and 11 often cause warty growths in the genital area. However, the HPV types which lead to the development of genital warts are not the same as the HPV types that infect the cervix and lead to abnormal changes in the cells. HPV 16 and 18 are examples of high-risk viruses that have been implicated in the development of cervical cancer.
Is HPV dangerous?
HPV does not always mean danger. The viruses are very common; during their lifetime, most people will have an infection at some time. However, the infection is usually temporary because the body’s immune system is normally able to fight off the virus without treatment.
The problem is that certain high-risk strains of HPV can cause infections that some people are unable to fight. When these viruses infect the cervix, they can cause cell changes called cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia or CIN. CIN is not a cancer, but the abnormal cells have the potential to develop into cancer over time, if it isn’t treated effectively. The infection can be silent, with no symptoms. So, without HPV testing, it’s impossible to know if you are at risk.
As well as cervical cancer, high-risk types of the virus have been linked to other problems including vaginal and vulval cancers, anal cancer, head and neck cancers and penile cancer in men.
HPV and cancer risk
Having HPV does not mean that you will develop cancer. The virus is extremely common, in fact eight in ten women will contract it at some time in their life. Most women do not get cancer. The development of cancer from HPV involves a series of genetic and immunological processes that are not fully understood. The good news is that treatment for CIN is very effective, and the risk of CIN coming back after treatment is low.
How can I catch HPV?
HPV is common in both men and women and can be contracted by touch. Infection in the genital area is usually spread through sexual contact. The problem is that although visible genital warts can occur with particular types of HPV, many people do not have any symptoms and are unaware that they have the virus. That means that a partner can unknowingly spread the virus. The virus may also be inactive for weeks, months and, for some people, possibly even years after infection, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the sexual partner that passed on the infection.
If you have been diagnosed with HPV and are anxious about the source of your infection, try not to worry. Our consultant gynaecologist Mr Thomas Ind says:
Often, exactly how a person gets the virus is uncertain; and it is not always possible to find a sexual explanation. Some experts believe that there may be other ways of spreading the virus that have not yet been identified.
At our treatment clinics, we can diagnose the infection, examine your cervix and treat any abnormal cells to prevent cancer developing.
How will I know if I have HPV?
Many women don’t know they have HPV and it is found on a routine smear test. HPV can also change the appearance of the cells on the surface of the cervix, when examined closely, so the infection can also be picked up on colposcopy.
Some women present to a doctor because they notice visible warts in the genital area. They can be single or clustered in groups, and the individual warts may be flat, smooth, firm bumps, or larger, lumpy growths that look like little cauliflowers.
Although the lumps can be unsightly and itchy, they are usually painless. The strain of the virus that leads to visible genital warts does not lead to cancer. However, HPV only produces visible warts in around 30% of people, leaving 70% of people with HPV who have no signs of the infection. The high-risk types of HPV tend to cause no symptoms, which is why regular testing is so important.
Can I protect myself against HPV?
The best way of preventing HPV is to be immunised against the virus, preferably at a young age before the infection has been contracted. Our Central London clinics offer safe and effective HPV vaccination in a comfortable and supportive environment.
HPV testing and treatment
HPV infection has been linked with the development of abnormal cells on the cervix and cervical cancer. Early diagnosis of the infection and effective treatment of abnormal cells can prevent cancer developing.
Many experts recommend that sexually active women have an HPV test every year. This type of HPV screening is not currently available in the NHS but we can provide a private HPV test at our clinics.
What is the HPV test?
Our clinics can test for HPV infection and identify the type of HPV present, so that anyone at risk of cell changes or cervical cancer can be carefully treated and monitored.
To accurately diagnose HPV, a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix needs to be analysed in the laboratory. The cells are obtained in the same way as in a smear test. The consultant will use a small, narrow soft brush to collect cells from the surface of the cervix and send them to a specialist laboratory for analysis.
There are more than a hundred types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Not all of these increase the risk of cervical cancer developing. Infection with the strains HPV-16 and HPV-18 are considered to be highest risk for cervical cancer. HPV tests can diagnose the virus and identifying the specific strain. This means that Mr Thomas Ind can explain whether you may be at risk of developing abnormal cells, treat and monitor you effectively and help prevent cervical cancer.
HPV test results
The results of the test will indicate the presence HPV and further analysis can also identify whether the infection includes one of the high-risk strains.
Being diagnosed with HPV can be worrying, but it’s important to understand that having HPV doesn’t mean you will develop cancer. The virus is extremely common, in fact around eight out of ten women may contract it at some time in their life. The good news is that most of these women do not get cancer. The development of cervical cancer from HPV involves a series of genetic and immunological processes that are still not fully understood by scientists and doctors.
HPV testing at Our Private Clinics
Our Central London clinics offer private HPV testing together with our cervical smear tests. The expert staff will ensure that you are comfortable and support you throughout the procedure.
Mr Thomas Ind is an experienced consultant gynaecological surgeon. He has extensive expertise in the prevention and treatment of cervical abnormalities and cancer. He will carefully explain the results of your HPV test, arrange any treatment necessary and take time to answer all your concerns and queries.
HPV is a very common infection. The majority of women who test positive for HPV need no treatment at all. The infection usually resolves spontaneously because the virus is cleared by the body’s own immune system. However, if abnormal cells are seen on the smear test and there is evidence of infection with one of the high-risk strains of HPV, further investigation and treatment is necessary.
Mr Thomas Ind will arrange a colposcopy. This is an investigation in which the cervix is closely examined through a microscope. Signs of HPV infection can be seen and any pre-cancerous or CIN cells can be identified, so that a personalised treatment plan can be made.
Finding out that you have a gynaecological problem can be frightening. At this stressful time, Mr Ind and the team at our private clinics will be there to offer information, sensitive support and the very best care. The results of treatment are excellent: Therapy cures 95% of women in the first instance and overall has a nearly 100% success rate.
Follow-up care for HPV
It’s important that your cervix is monitored after treatment, to ensure that the infection has cleared and no further cell abnormalities have developed. You will need regular check-ups to ensure that the cervix remains healthy. Many women need smears every year for up to ten years. The clinic will arrange the follow-up you need, so that any problems can be picked up promptly and you can stay healthy and well.
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