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Laurena, Dr. Philip Sarrel, the founder of the Yale Menopause Program and the Yale Sex Counseling Service, also had a response to your question. Here's what he had to say:

A positive HPV test (human papillomavirus) is very common and most
infections are transient. About 25% are persistent and call for more
detailed analysis. A pap smear is always done and if negative even with
a positive HPV the recommendations for follow-up are to repeat the smear at 6 to 12 month intervals. About 4% of the smears eventually turn positive.
Cancer of the cervix is the major health risk associated with some types of papilloma virus.
A 51 year old with a positive HPV is usually assumed to be a situation
of persistent infection and does call for a colposcopy (microscopic
examination of the cervix). Because HPV results so often turn negative, it is not unreasonable for the physician to hold off recommending colposcopy until after another set of HPV and smear tests.
If you think the positive test is a result of infection from your new
partner, that would be even more reason to wait for a repeat set of
tests. If the HPV has been present in the past then it makes sense to
ask for colposcopy now.

January 19, 2011 - 9:07am


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