I got two calls from my gyn office this morning. I just recently switched to a new office. I actually saw a Nurse Practitioner instead of a doctor, which is wicked cool to me, especially since my Aunt is a NP. She was extremely cool. I was also careful in selecting a new office. At the last place, it took me 3 appointments to find someone who didn’t want to either presume I wanted kids or disparage me for having casual (but safe) sex. Once I found her, I stuck with her, but with the move to Gurnee, working in LV, and doing so much travel for work, it’s gotten really hard to find a time that I can get down to Palatine to see her. So…I started a hunt for a new place, and I’m really happy with the one I found. I called several places and asked about their office policies on alternative lifestyles, whether I could do primary care screenings with them, too (saves me a visit somewhere else), and what kind of hours they offer for appointments. It wasn’t always fun making those pre-calls, but making them gave me really good information such that I felt much more comfortable at that first visit than I would have otherwise.
So, I talked to my NP about my history, my present, and my overall philosophies on stuff. As is usual for me, I requested a full blood test for STDs in additional to the usual tests. I also asked about Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. I’m outside of the age range for it, but I was curious if it could still be effective at my age and whether it was worth exploring for me. She said that it was, unfortunately, not likely to be effective, but that she could test me for HPV. HPV tests are something they typically do for women age 30 and up, and I’m not quite there yet, but I agreed that I wanted to be tested almost immediately. I also asked about getting a thyroid screening, since I have a relative who has recently been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. She said that’d be no problem, so two cervical swabs and 3 vials of blood later, my info was off to the lab.
Today, I got all my test results back: negative on all the blood tests, pap came back normal, but the HPV came back positive. So, what does that mean? It means that I have something that 80% of all women have by age 50. It means I have a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer than I did before we knew this. It means that if I ever do show up with an abnormal pap, it warrants more attention than it would have before.
Oh and by the way, because I wasn’t clear on this until a few months ago, HPV does not equal genital warts. There are different strains of HPV, and from what I understand, that’s not the kind I have. (I have the cancer-related kind, not the wart-related kind.) HPV is also not permanent. In many people, their immune system kills it off pretty quickly. Thus, I’m getting tested again in six months to see if the HPV is gone or if it’s hanging around…and a repeat pap to make sure no abnormalities have come up.
Long story short, this is probably about the least big deal kind of thing that someone with my predilections could hope to run into. Nonetheless, if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past 12 hours, it’s that lots of people are totally unaware of HPV and quite a few people are really misinformed about it…so I figured it’s worthwhile to blog about it and get the word out a bit. Basically, it’s more likely that you or your partner has it than that they don’t. Being able to test for it is a relatively new thing. Previously, the only way you found out was that you had a series of abnormal paps, and then you found out that you had pre-cancer if not full blown cancer. So, getting tested means you are more likely to catch a cancer instance earlier, which drastically reduces the impact.
PSA for the day: Get tested for HPV, and if you test positive or a friend does, don’t panic.