I appreciate all the comments and serious concerns throughout these comments. What I have noticed is that many are young women and although I do not want to add to anyone's level of stress over this subject I must share some of my own experiences as a women of 56 years of age because there certainly is a lack of education on this subject even within the medical profession.
I had a full hysterectomy at the age of 19 so most doctors would not think or recommend pap smears as I don't have a cervix. I have been tested for HPV throughout my life and never shown a positive result until a recent skin biopsy.
I have had numerous skin cancers removed (over 130 to date both BCC and SCC's) and am very well educated on the detection of these lesions. So when I detected what appeared to be skin cancer in the perianal and vaginal region I had biopsies immediately. The lesions did appear similar to warts in some respects but the actual diagnosis is SCC in situ which means “When the cancerous cells are confined to the epithelium (outside layers of the tissue), the lesion is called SCC in situ.”. This is caused by one of the HPV virus's and while not deadly must be removed and further investigation needed because in some cases they can metastasize leading to cancer in other parts of the body.
Although happily married to my current partner for 16 years due to other health complications I have not had an active sex life for over 12 years. SCC in situ is quite commonly found in elderly women after the age of about 65 and can be a precursor to vaginal, vulva, anal and other cancer. I have never engaged in anal sex yet further examinations have found these wart type lesions in the anal canal which will also require surgical removal. I'm currently awaiting further biopsy results to confirm if there is evidence that the cancer cells have infiltrated deeper into the tissue if so treatment will be more severe and complicated.
I'm lucky enough to be in the hands of one of the world’s leading specialists in this field and therefore the most recent and often unpublished research data. Who has recommended that I have 3 Gardisil vaccinations beginning straight away because she has seen great reduction in recurrences even in people my age and old using this as a support treatment (and yes I'm well aware of the controversies regarding such vaccines). I will need to be checked every 3 to 6 months for life and may need more surgeries depending on the outcomes in the next few weeks.
I've learnt there is a major lack of professional education in this field because no one is really warning older women that they may never show positive for the HPV virus but can develop these cancers and in many cases they will have metastasized and spread to areas such as the liver before they are diagnosed with cancer.
It is true that over 80% of the community (over the age of 16) carry the HPV virus, many will never have a symptom but PLEASE be vigilant for the rest of your life (I showed no signs or symptoms until 55 years old and many will be much older before they are even aware of this virus and its potential ill affects).
Do not let stigma of it being referred to as a STD make you feel embarrassed to seek immediate medical attention. DO NOT believe in lists (as I've seen on this site and others) about risk factors and think just because you don't fit into them you are not at risk. I personally don't fit 99% of the risk categories but yes I have had sex and am not ashamed of it. DON'T delay in seeking treatment because I also lost a family member at the age of 56 because of cancer caused by the HPV virus which went undiagnosed for 2 years. There is often a genetic predisposition to it. TALK openly about it with your friends and family no matter what age ......you may save a life. IT is especially important that not only the young but the middle aged and elderly are aware these viruses can cause cancer much later in life…. (sorry but there is NO safe period as has been previously referred to in comments…..warts or SCC in situ can appear many decades after you have contracted the virus and the virus may not show up in test results for decades after being infected or it can show up and then seem clear for decades and reappear). Smoking is a definite risk factor because of the long term effects on your overall health.
DON’T panic or stress as this will only make you less healthy overall. DON’T get angry at having the virus……you are in the majority of the population. SEEK as many medical opinions you need to feel satisfied you are being cared for and supported as you deserve. I have 2 surgeons, 2 GP’s (one holistic and one conventional both open minded to my choices of treatment), 1 sexual health expert, and 1 Professor of dermatology all working together to get me the best results but I make all my own decisions regarding treatment and the risks I will take. DON”T skimp on expense when it comes to your health……that new dress or shoes won’t save your life but a good doctor can.