I’ve Been Infected With HPV: Now What?

Will I get cancer because of an HPV infection?, Do precancerous lesions immediately lead to cancer?, Are there any symptoms of these lesions?

There are two factors affecting your response to an HPV infection: The type of virus you have and your immune system.

For most individuals, their immune system successfully defends against the infection and lesions never happen. For others, the infected cells may grow abnormally, the human papillomavirus begins to reproduce, but even then, there are many factors that have to come into play for this scenario to happen.

Will I get cancer because of an HPV infection?

Not all types of HPV cause cancer. There are low risk and high risk types:

  • The low risk types of HPV (6, 11, 42, 43, 44, 54, 61, 70, 72, 81, etc.) can cause benign warts in the genitals, called condylomas. Approximately 90% of condylomas are caused by HPV types 6 & 11. Very rarely can HPV cause papillomas in the respiratory tract, which can be life-threatening.
  • The high risk types of HPV (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, 73, 82, etc.) may cause genital warts but may also cause precancerous lesions and cancer in certain organs, including the cervix.

This is why it’s a good idea to discuss having an HPV test with your doctor so that you can figure out which type you have.

Do precancerous lesions immediately lead to cancer? Are there any symptoms of these lesions?

There are years, sometimes decades, between HPV infection and the diagnosis of cancer. Precancerous lesions typically precede cancer and this is why it’s important to get regular check ups. If your doctor does an examination and finds precancerous lesions, which have no symptoms and can only be discovered via medical examination, then they can be treated before they develop. An HPV test is one of the best ways you can get ahead of a possible cancer diagnosis.