[Question #1813] Newly diagnosed HPV

42 months ago
Hello Drs, I have a newly diagnosed HPV upon my annual Pap and Pelvic exam. I am shocked, as I am 54 years old& both my husband and I are monogamous in our 27 year marriage. I was told to eat, sleep and exercise-all of which I am doing. Before I was married to my husband, both of us had premarital sex with others.  We have had 4 children, all grown and healthy. Blessed! But this threw me! How can this be dormant for 30 plus years? And the risk of crvival cancer? We probably both have HPV? I was given no guidance. How shall we know it's safe to have sex? So many questions. Thank you!
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
42 months ago

Welcome to our Forum.  I'll try to help although there is still much to be learned about HPV infections, particularly those discovered later in life (most HPV testing and discover is done in persons in the 25-35 year age range).  As I read your post, I wondered if prior PAP smears were tested for HPV in the past.  Your infection may have been present in the past but not tested for HPV..  This is not something that was done routinely in the past although it is now becoming more so.  Irrespective, most people with HPV present do not go on to develop cancer and unless there were precancerous abnormalities present on your PAP smear, I would not be the least bit worried about the possibility of cancer. 

Research studies show that 5-7% of women over 50 will have HPV so you are by no means alone and the presence of infection is not associated with serious health consequences in the vast majority of cases.  How the infection occurs in situations like yours and whether a positive test represents a new infection, reactivation of an infection acquired in the (sometimes distant) past, a persisting infection missed by earlier tests or even a falsely positive test is the subject of debate.  The right thing to do following a positive test is to have the test repeated, typically in about 6 months as over that period there is almost no risk of progression and infections may resolve without therapy in a substantial proportion of persons. 

Certainly there is no reason for you and your husband to alter your sexual activities in any way.  As you imply, if you are infected, he has been exposed and unless on or the other of you has an abnormal visual lesion (in his case) or further PAP smear abnormalities, there is no reason for treatment or intervention. 

I hope these comments are helpful. EWH. 

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42 months ago
Thank you Dr Hook! Blessings over you!