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Can HPV go away on its own?

By Anonymous April 13, 2009 - 1:08pm
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I was just diagnosed as being positive for HPV and will have a culposcopy in a few days. I've done some research and have read that once you have HPV that it will never go away. But I asked the nurse at my doctor's office and she said that in some cases, the HPV will just go away and your body will recover on its own. If that's the case, how often does that occur? What are my chances that my HPV will just eventually go away?

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It seems that despite the number of times this question is answered in this post, there are those who continue to ask it. Not that it isn't a valid question, but there certainly have been enough answers provided here to eliminate the need to post the question yet again. Read the answers.

I would like to clarify something which I see a lot of women do and that is to refer to the various strains of HPV as strands like a strand of hair. The word is strain and yes there are over 100 different strains of HPV.

Unfortunately the wording still continues to confuse people especially the word "clear". As mentiond repeatedly above, the virus can go dormant and thus not be found on an HPV test however the virus is and always will remain in your body. It's that simple. If anyone tells you that it can be removed from your body they are incorrect.

I would also like to mention something which goes unmentioned far too often. Whenever any questions come up about HPV and pap and HPV tests inevitably the conversation turns to the cervix and cervical cancer. Rarely does anyone expand the comments to inform the posters that this isn't all about just cervical cancer.

Any time you have a colposcopy (not to be confused with colonoscopy which is a screening test for colon cancer) you should be asking your doctor to also look at the vagina, vulva and anus. Like cervical cancer, approximately 99% of anal cancers are also caused by HPV yet very few people are aware of this. If you have had CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) then you have a 37% increased risk of developing AIN (anal intraepithelial neoplaasia) and/or anal cancer. Also, a colonoscopy is NOT the test of choice for viewing anal HPV lesions, an anoscopy is. Many people also continue to confuse colon cancer and anal cancer. These cancers derive from totally different types of cells and are not connected at all.

The ACOG (American College of OB-GYN) have a complete list of recommendations regarding follow-up for HPV and/or positive pap tests. You can gain a signifiant amount of detailed information and references at thehpvsupportnetwork.org. The site is certified by HONCode which certifies sites as having medically accurate information so this should provide confidence with respect to what you are reading.

Lastly, I would like to comment on foamites. Up until recently it has been believed that HPV was transmitted via skin-to-skin contact and that intercourse was not a prerequesite to contracting the virus. There is recent research especially by Joel Palefky, MD probably the most influential individual on HPV, that transmission can also occur through foamites (inanimate objects). While we are not talking about a towel or toilet seat necessarily, Dr. Palefsky and others are firm believers that an object such as a finger can transport the virus from an infected area to a previous uninfected area. The virus has already been documented in urine, semen and breast milk and also saliva. This leads to the possibility of transmission through kissing. Since HPV has been shown to be present in 25% of head/neck/throat cancers (with HPV16 showing up in 90% of those cases) this concept is not so far fetched. After all, these are all bodily fluids and similar to AIDS which can also be transmitted through bodily fluids it would certainly be better to be safe than sorry. Someone mentinoed the PCR which is a blood test, for thsoe who don't know. It stands for Peroxidase chain reaction and has been used for quite some time for the detection of HPV DNA. It is not used commercially because it can be unreliable but in general it is a good test and around long before the current HC2 (hybrid capture 2) test by Qiagen or Cervista by SKL (Smith Kline Laboratories)

Just because your pap is negative does not mean that you are free of HPV. It only means that there is no HPV DNA present in that cervical specimen. You can still have HPV in the vagina or vulva or anal area and that's why all areas should be checked during a colposcopy. You cuold also have HPV in a different area of the cervix or within the cervical canal if the doctor did not perform an ECC (endocervical curettage). The HPV test is far more sensitive than the Pap especially when it come to lesions which are further advanced such as CIN2 and CIN3 lesions (64% vs 94%) and tha tis quite a spread.

One response I saw earlier on simply said: "Negative, negative, negative." Yes there is a lot of negative surrounding HPV. This is unfortunate but true and for good reasons especially if you happen to be one of those in whom the virus is not controlled by the immune system.

I have been dealing with HPV for over two decades and had HPV involve every single area that I mentiond above including two cases of invasive anal cancer (15 years apart, showing how the virus was dormant for all that time).

If there is one thing that needs to be focused on, it is that HPV is simply NOT only an issue of the cervix. The sooner people learn and understand that, the better off they will be.

September 23, 2010 - 6:46pm
(reply to Bonnie Diraimondo RN)

Bonnie, I just want to thank you for this fantastic post. I really appreciate it.

September 24, 2010 - 5:41pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had been in a monogamous relationship for over 2 years when I was diagnosed with hpv . I had a copo and it came back negative. I have had 2 pap smears since and my last one came back normal . I am curious what this means for me seeing that my past few pap smears had come back abnormal.

September 22, 2010 - 5:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hello, I am 28 years, las May 10th, I was diagnosed with HPV 16 and 66, I became sexually active in September 2009, before doing so went to the gynecologist and asked for the vaccine, and she said she needed to know if i was eligible... never had her encouragement to get it... I was so in love I had forgotten hpv was my worse fear ever... anyways, I went to the gynecologist every month because had recurrent urinary tract infections, and she would perform colposcopies in every visit and everything was fine, but I felt something was wrong... It's just one of those feelings... In April 2010 I finally got the vaccine (cervarix) but I had this weird feeling because my sexual relations were painful (only during penetration) along with the constant urinary tract infections, so I asked my doctor for a HPV test and he suggested a PCR, and so I had it done, and it came out positive for double infection the results said: 16 and 66, both high risk types, my world colapsed. I scheduled an appointment with another gynecologist (was angry and did not trust the first one anymore), he performed a colposcopy and it came out negative (meaning there were no lesions), he said the PCR could have came out positive because of the vaccine (first shot in April 2010, the HPV positive PCR in May 2010), and that I should have a pap smear (my first ever) in three months, and so I did (last month) and the results were: "cytoplastic changes compatible with HPV", It killed me... I had thought it was the vaccine showing on my PCR and then this... I still have issues coping with this... gynecologist take this so lightly... my bf went to an urologist and had a cytology done before we began having sex... I mean we were two adults, trying to do things right!! I only had sex without condom once.
Anyways, I did not feel reasured by this doctor either, the vaccine explanations did not make sense to me (and I am not a doctor), so two weeks ago I went to a third doctor who explained the PCR results were right from the start, but the colposcopy came out normal because the virus was still (with the cell stage, not visible), she made another colposcopy and showed us the lesion on screen... I could not stop crying... I never thought this would happen to me, and on top of things having not one but 2 of the worse, specially type 16 which has been found in lung, head/neck, and some breast tumors, despite of course the risk of vulva, vagina and so on...
Dr 3 said my body would get rid of it, because I do not have the so called pre requirements for it to become cancer... I can't help to wonder... this virus can pop out anywhere I mean it is already in my bloodstream... gosh!!

By reading your post I realize the "clearing up" is not true at all... and now I am concerned about the treatment she suggested to my results (pap, colpo and PCR), she suggested we waited and come back for another pap smear in 6 months but I am afraid... I mean I saw the lesion clearly and it only took three months for them to develop in my cervix (considering I had a colposcopy done in May when I got the PCR results), I wonder if her approach is maybe "too" conservative (as opposed to have criotherapy or leep..), in your experience, is that the usual safest treatment taking into account my cincumstances?

Enough of the medical, the worst part is my emotional hell, really I can't help but regret getting involved with this person, wanting to turn time back just a year and getting vaccinated, I mean a vaccine was out there and I knew about it... I just feel as if my life was over, I have no dreams anymore, and I feel as if it would be just a matter of time before the virus can induce me into cancer any where I mean we too had oral sex, for what I know I could have it in my throat... I just wish I had kept my promise of saving myself until marriage.
On top of things my mother is EXTREMELY conservative and I can not tell her about it, she hates my bf and we are in non speaking terms, I am an only child currently residing away from my hometown and I have kept all this inside.. because my bf keeps minimizing things (because the dr said my body would get rid of it), and to be honest I do not love him anymore, but believe I should stay with him so he will take care of me wheneven I do get cancer, because after all, he did this to me!!
To all women I have read about here, trust me it is better not knowing who infected you, beacuse to me it's just a living hell knowing when and who indeed infected me.
It would really help to know about women, who have had this virus and never had developed cancer.
Thanks in advance.

September 22, 2010 - 4:44am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for your comment, and for finding EmpowHER.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. The fear of possibly developing cervical cancer sounds like it has you paralyzed. I am having a hard time understanding why. Not all HPV turns into cancer. And if found early, most abnormal cells and cervical cancer can be treated. Being at high-risk for developing the condition is not a death sentence. At least I hope it's not, I had HPV in my early 30s. I have been treated three times for precancerous cells on my cervix. I had a LEEP, a colposcopy, and cone biopsy. Since then, I got married and had two children. I didn't need to be treated for an incompetent cervix during pregnancy. I haven't had a "bad" PAP since having children. I still go annually to get my gynecological exam. HPV and any alleged threat of cervical cancer has not stopped my life.
Here is more information about cervical cancer:
Here is information about the HPV vaccine:
I sincerely hope arming yourself with factual information will give you strength to live your life and not be victimized by a cancer you don't have. You can repair your relationship with you mother, and you don't have to stay in a relationship if it's over.
Good luck, and let us know how you are.

September 22, 2010 - 12:57pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Christine Jeffries)

Thanks for your encouragement Christine, it really helps to know I am not alone with this ( Not that it's better but.. you know what I mean), I grateful to the women who run this space.

I just have one question, how old were you when you found out you had it, and those three times you have been treated... over what period of time did those cell changes happen from the time you first found out?

Thanks in advance.
Best regards

September 23, 2010 - 5:05pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I had my first abnormal pap smear when I was 31 years old. All "bad pap smears" and procedures took place in the time between then to when I was 34 and got pregnant. I went to two different doctors in that time, because I was planning on having children soon, so I switched doctors to get with one I was really comfortable with. I have not had another bad pap since.

September 24, 2010 - 11:49am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Christine Jeffries)

How old are you know? Just want to know what to expect from the Virus behavior... odds from it persisting or not in my body... and how often by knowing your experience. I know every body is different but it would help to have a reference.

Thanks again Christine.

Yesterday I was just thinking, I mean I have this, did not make the best choices, but I need to have some faith... I mean this virus was discovered in 1906, i am sure many have had it (maybe my grandmother had it, because my grandfather was unfaithful many times and back in the day, there were no condoms, yet she died at the age of 82), I guess I am afraid of dying because of the HPV induced cancer, but I should stop, because it is like I am already doing so by stop living my life and doing what I dreamt about... anyways enough of my wondering, I am having a good day... finally after four months of misery!!

September 24, 2010 - 5:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

If you've had the chicken pox, you have a form of herpes virus in your system. This same strain can lead to shingles later in life. If you have had a cold sore, you have herpes simplex 1 virus. It may go away but it will be in your system until you get another flare up. HPV, your warts and symptoms may go away but you still have the virus which can lead to another flare up later on. Does this help?

September 18, 2010 - 12:22pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi all - Several of you have asked for information about how often you should have the HPV test. You will find detailed information about that at this link from the test manufacturer: http://www.thehpvtest.com/about-the-digene-hpv-test/how-often-to-have-the-hpv-test/?LanguageCheck=1
Please note:
If you are between the ages of 20 and 30, HPV testing should only be used when your Pap result is inconclusive.

If you are 30 or older and have not had an HPV test, tell your doctor or nurse that you want to be tested for HPV test along with your next Pap.

If you are over 30, how often you need to repeat the HPV test depends on your past results. For example, if both your Pap and HPV test results are normal, re-testing is needed just once every three years.

You can stop being tested for HPV when you no longer need a Pap.

September 13, 2010 - 5:26pm
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