Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on August 11, 2011

Are there different types of HPV? If I have the kind that causes cervical cancer...will I also get genital warts?

Are all human papillomavirus (HPV) strains the same? I had an abnormal Pap smear and my doctor says I have HPV which can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. Does that mean I could also get genital warts?

answered by
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on August 11, 2011

I’m glad you’re keeping up on regular Pap tests, and I can understand your confusion over your results. The best person to talk to about your questions is your regular doctor, but I can help answer some general questions about HPV, cervical cancer and genital warts.

The short answer is no, not all human papillomavirus (HPV) types are the same. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of HPV. Only about 40 of those can infect the genitals, and most of those types don’t show any symptoms.

And the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers are different from the types of HPV that cause genital warts. That means you probably don’t need to worry about genital warts...but it’s possible to have more than one type of HPV at a time.

According to your doctor, you have a so-called “high-risk” type(s) of HPV which can cause cervical cancer. That means cancer can develop if you have HPV for a long time and the virus makes your cells start multiplying without stopping. High-risk types of HPV are the cause of most cervical cancers, and they’re also linked to some cancers in the vagina, vulva, anus and throat.

I encourage you to follow your doctor’s instructions for treatment after your abnormal Pap result. Typically, as your next step, your doctor will take another look at your cells to see if they appear pre-cancerous...if so, your doctor may decide it’s important to perform a procedure that removes the “bad” cells so that they won’t develop into cancer later. You can also find out more about HPV treatment in our HPV Overview.

Thanks again for your question, and I encourage you to keep being proactive about your health and well-being.

Related info:

Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD

Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.

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