Prisma Health encouraging HPV screening and vaccine

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease, according to Doctor Benjie Mills.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – As International HPV Awareness Day approaches, Prisma Health is encouraging the community to get screened for the virus. 

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease, according to Doctor Benjie Mills. She says a person could have it and not know because there can be no symptoms.

“It’s really only after someone gets invasive cancer of the cervix, the vagina, the anal area, or the vulva that they start having symptoms which most commonly is abnormal bleeding from the area or having a rough scaly patch that gets a little ulcer in it and never heals up,“ says Doctor Mills, who is a Prisma Health Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecologist in the Upstate.

Both men and women are recommended to get screened for the disease. Doctor Divya Ahuja says there are over 200 types of HPV.  

“There are however certain high risk ones, 13 or 15 high risk ones, that are most likely to cause cancer and fortunately a lot of those high risk types are included in the vaccine,” says Doctor Divya Ahuja, who is a Prisma Health Infectious Disease Physician in the Midlands. 

About 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the immune system but smoking and vaping decrease the body’s ability to fight off HPV infections, says Doctor Mills. “For patients that are healthy who are not immunocompromised such as having HIV or organ transplant, these infections just go away and they don’t need treatment. In patients who actually do need treatment though we can surgically or chemically remove the HPV areas but we can never guarantee we get every little viral particle.”

The vaccine is for ages 9 to 45, Doctor Ahuja recommends every child be given the vaccine before becoming sexually active. 

“Unfortunately because of various myths and propaganda out there and certain religion and beliefs, our vaccination rate is less than 60% when there is a vaccine that can prevent cancer,” says Doctor Ahuja.

“If there is any vaccine to prevent cancer why wouldn’t we get it? I feel if it was a vaccine to prevent breast cancer wouldn’t people be lined up around the streets?,” says Doctor Jill McLeod, who is a Prisma Health Obstetrics/Gynecologist in the Midlands.

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