Human papillomavirus, or HPV, cannot be treated itself. The symptoms and complications it causes, however, can be treated. Dr. Alvarado, what can you tell us about the treatments for symptoms and complications of HPV?
Well, Dr. Mayzik, for most people, an HPV infection will go away without ever causing any symptoms or complications simply because their immune system will fight off the virus. But when HPV persists and causes genital warts, precancerous cell changes, or cancer, there are a number of treatment options available.
Providers may treat genital warts with medicines applied directly to the genital warts or with an injection. They may also prescribe medication that can be applied at home several times a week. Over-the-counter medicines intended for other kinds of warts should NOT be used. Genital warts can also be removed with a minor procedure, such as:
- Cryosurgery, which destroys the growth by freezing the abnormal tissue
- Electrocautery, which destroys the growth by burning the abnormal tissue
- Laser therapy, which uses light to burn away abnormal tissue, or
When HPV causes precancerous changes in the cervix, it's called cervical dysplasia. Mild dysplasia may go away without treatment, but the condition will be monitored closely. If changes do not go away or get worse, treatment may include:
- Laser therapy
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP, which uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue, or
- A type of surgery called cone biopsy
If an HPV infection leads to cancer of any kind, treatment options vary depending on the stage and type of cancer. Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should be screened routinely for cervical cancer. Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.