It is hard for most parents to see their little girl growing up and becoming a woman. Just like when she was a little girl, the need for you to protect your daughter will always be there. Whether she is sexually active or not, it is a good idea to start considering her sexual health and how you can protect her from getting HPV.
Did you know that cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV?
Although most HPV infections go away on their own without causing any harm, certain types of HPV may infect the cells of the cervix (the opening that connects the vagina and uterus), making the cells more likely to become cancerous.
In general, cervical cancer develops slowly. If it's found early enough, cervical cancer can be successfully treated. If the cancer is not detected through regular Pap tests, it could be quite advanced by the time a woman discovers that she has it. Late detection will affect the prognosis and treatment. All sexually active women should have regular Pap tests to screen for changes in cervical cells and for cervical cancer.
What could this mean for your daughter?
The statistics on cervical cancer:
HPV may also cause abnormal cells (also called cervical dysplasia) to form on the cervix. Cervical dysplasia involves cells that have changed in appearance. Cervical dysplasia is not cancer, but the cells may be called precancerous because they can develop into cervical cancer. Although your daughter's body often clears the HPV infection on its own, these cells could eventually turn into cervical cancer if not treated. Cervical dysplasia is usually discovered during a routine Pap test, which is one of the best screening methods for detecting abnormal cells.
About 350,000 Pap tests come back with abnormal results each year in Canada. Since there are often no noticeable symptoms associated with cervical dysplasia, it is very important to stress to your daughter the importance of getting a regular Pap test. All women are encouraged to have regular Pap tests.
Having regular Pap tests is a very effective way to help prevent cervical cancer from developing.
Talk to your doctor or your daughter's doctor for more information on Pap tests.
HPV can cause genital warts. In fact, certain low-risk types of HPV are responsible for most cases of genital warts. Genital warts are very contagious and are the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Genital warts are flesh-coloured bumps that can be either flat or raised like a typical wart. Sometimes, they're described as "cauliflower-like." These can be found anywhere in or on the genitals or on the thighs.
They're highly contagious: 2 out of 3 people who have sex with an affected partner will develop genital warts, usually within 3 months of sexual contact. Because genital warts can be very small or internal, there's a chance that if your daughter develops them, she may not even know.
What could this mean?
Go to "How can I protect my daughter from HPV?" for more information.
HPV can cause vulvar cancer (cancer of the outer female genital area) and vaginal cancer (cancer of the vagina).
When certain types of HPV infect the cells of the vagina and vulva, they cause the cells to change in ways that make them more likely to become cancer cells.
The good news is that you can take steps now to protect your daughter from vulvar and vaginal cancers. Talk to your daughter's doctor about all of the options that are available for her, including practicing safer sex, having frequent Pap tests and checkups, and getting vaccinated.
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