HPV Does Not Always Lead to Cervical Cancer

August 20, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Mira Hellmann, M.D. contributes to topics such as Women's Health, Cancer Care.

Verda Hicks, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cancer Care, Men's Health, Women's Health.

“I have HPV. Does that mean I’ll get cervical cancer?”

It’s a fair question. It’s a well-known fact that the human papillomavirus (HPV) has a connection to cancer, particularly cervical cancer. But while nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, not all women who have HPV will get cervical cancer, explains Mira Hellmann, M.D., who practices gynecologic oncology at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.

In fact, most do not.

“Only a very small number of women who contract HPV will ever develop cervical cancer,” Dr. Hellmann says. “Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood, but generally speaking, a HPV diagnosis does not equal a future cervical cancer diagnosis.”

Who is at risk?

According to Dr. Hellmann, the risk for developing cervical cancer increases when the presence of HPV persists over a long period of time. This is because, as HPV persists in the body, the infection begins to alter cells in a negative way. Researchers tend to believe this timeframe is at least 10 years from the time of the initial HPV infection to the time that a tumor forms.

“For that reason, by getting screened regularly for both HPV and cervical cancer, a person can prevent a cervical cancer diagnosis,” Dr. Hellmann says.

When to Get Screened

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends a frequency of screening that is dependent on a woman’s age. Screening may be required more frequently depending on a person’s family history or other risk factors, so a patient should consult with their gynecologist to determine a screening frequency that makes the most sense for them.

Prevention and the HPV Vaccination

“It is important for us to remember that HPV is preventable to a large extent,” says Verda Hicks, M.D., chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “To prevent it, we recommend girls and boys alike get the HPV vaccination before their teenage years, around the ages of 9 -13.

If a person older than this has not already been vaccinated against HPV, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the vaccine for anyone up to the age of 45 years old. If you haven’t been vaccinated, you should speak with your doctor about doing so.”

Dr. Hellmann specializes in gynecological oncology and practices in Hackensack, NJ. To make an appointment with Dr. Hellmann, call 551-996-5855. Dr. Hicks specializes in gynecological oncology and practices in Neptune, NJ. To make an appointment with Dr. Hicks, call 732-897-7944. To find a provider near you, visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/find-a-doctor.

To learn more about Hackensack Meridian Health Cancer Care, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Cancer.

References:

  • American Cancer Society
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
  • S. Food & Drug Administration

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.