11/25/02 - Cancer Causer

We told you last week about an experimental vaccine that's thought to be effective against human papilloma virus, or HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. HPV accounts for about half of all cervical cancer cases HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. One Heartland doctor says catching it early is the key to preventing the cancer it causes.
OB/GYN Dr. Michael Jessup says, "Every year we have more and more younger people who develop the virus. Dr. Jessup says he sees a case of HPV every week. Most of the time, women are shocked to find out they have it, because there are no symptoms. "This virus can lay dormant for 10 to twelve years and not do a thing to a lady," Dr. Jessup says. Then, it can show up suddenly. "There's not a lesion, there's no soreness, no discharge, so often times we detect it through pap smears women are supposed to be getting annually," he says.
There are around 80 strains of HPV, six cause cervical cancer. It can cause also warts, or abnormal pap smears. Dr. Jessup says trouble comes, when women skip their annual exam. "The fact we can virotype the virus, in the past, we knew which strain caused cervical cancer but not the one you have," he says.
Now that doctors can determine which strain you have it helps them get you on the right treatment, before it gets any worse. "About 95 percent of cervical cancer is curable, so it's sad we've got women three to five years between pap smears," Dr. Jessup says. "This is one we know what causes it, we can find out, and fix it."

Abstinence or safe sex are the only ways to protect yourself from HPV.