Ask Nurse Nancy – Nancy Berman
Nancy Berman MSN, APRN, BC
Nancy R. Berman received her undergraduate degree in Nursing from the University of Michigan and her Master's degree as an adult practioner from Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan. She is certified as a menopause practioner. She specializes in Women's Health Care at Northwest Internal Medicine Associates, a division of the Millenium Medical Group PC, in Southfield, Michigan.
Ms. Berman teaches extensively on HPV and cervical cancer prevention and menopause. She has served on the practice and patient education committees of the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and holds their Colposcopy Recognition Award. She serves on the Michigan Cervical Cancer Consortium and the Governor’s Task Force on Cervical Cancer. She has had numerous articles published in medical and nursing journals.
I have HPV. Is there a cure?
Nurse Nancy Says...At this time it is thought that most people who are sexually active will be infected with HPV at some point. By the age of 50, 80% of women will have had an HPV infection. The virus usually goes away on its own in 8 or 9 months and the majority of infections will be gone by 24 months. It is not known whether this means that the virus is "cured" or whether it might have decreased to such a low level that it can't be found by the tests that are used for detection.
Can I get HPV from having anal sex?
Nurse Nancy Says...HPV can be passed to the anus during sexual activity with penetration into the anal canal. The skin cells in the anus have a risk of becoming abnormal from HPV infection. For that reason, men and women who have anal intercourse may be screened by a Pap test for abnormality in that area. The anal Pap test must be evaluated by a pathologist who is familiar with that type of Pap and if it is abnormal, an evaluation of the anal skin called "high resolution anoscopy" should be done. The anal Pap and appropriate follow-up is currently being offered in some clinics in the country.
Is HPV only a sexual virus?
Nurse Nancy Says...HPV is a virus that spends its time in skin cells as opposed to the blood stream or breathing passages. This means that the virus can be passed between people when there is skin to skin contact.
Of the more than 100 types of HPV identified, approximately, 30 to 40 infect the genital skin cells and may cause no symptoms or genital warts or abnormal change of the cells. There are types of HPV that infect other parts of the body including those that cause warts on the hands or feet.
It is important to know that during sex, HPV can be passed to a partner even when a condom is used. New studies have shown that using a condom can decrease the risk that a male will pass HPV to a female partner and women whose partners wear condoms have a greater chance that abnormalities on their cervix caused by HPV will go away on their own. In women having sex with men, intercou rse with penetration is the time that HPV is most easily passed to the cervix (the mouth of the womb or uterus). All women should have cervical cancer screening regardless of their sexual orientation.
Current research is identifying the role of HPV in causing cancers that involve non-genital sites including the head, neck, esophagus.