1. “Once you have HPV, you have it for life.”
Not at all! If your immune system is healthy, you can get rid of the infection for good. It may take a little time, but by taking appropriate steps, you will again test negative for HPV.
2. “I had the HPV vaccine, I can’t catch the virus.”
Despite the HPV vaccine being highly effective at preventing certain strains of HPV, it absolutely does not protect you from every strain out there. You can get the HPV vaccine and still get HPV, I’ve seen it happen many times.
3. “Condoms protect you against all STDs, including HPV.”
This is a dangerous misconception. HPV is a virus that is spread through skin to skin contact. While condoms are clearly extremely important in the prevention of most STD's, they only reduce the risk of HPV spread. In other words, you can use them 100% consistently and correctly and still get HPV.
4. “After a colposcopy removed the damaged cells, the virus is gone.”
The colposcopy procedure removes the cells of your cervix that have been damaged by HPV. However, the virus itself lives throughout your body, which is where my diet and lifestyle recommendations come in. A healthy immune system will help clear the virus up from your body for good.
5. “Older women don’t need Paps, they are for women of childbearing age.”
One in 4 cases of cervical cancer occurs in women over the age of 65. Forty one percent of cervical cancer deaths also occur in this age range. While every woman does not need a Pap every year, every woman does need a visit to see their physician to discuss their personal risk and decide on the best plan.
Allison Fox, M.D.