Annual physicals and obstetrician appointments may not be a priority for everyone. Busy with different aspects of our lives, we sometimes place our health on the back burner.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito did not realize that two years had passed since her last OB-GYN visit. After her appointment in August, she revealed on twitter that she was diagnosed with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV); a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
“HPV is the most common STI,” said Dr. Mark Einstein, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Director of Gynecologic Oncology Research at Montefiore Medical Center.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, and every year millions of people become newly infected. “It is ubiquitous—nearly everyone has been exposed to HPV at some time in their life,” Einstein said.
Mark-Viverito was found to have a high risk strain of HPV, one of 14 types of HPV that has been linked to cancer. Einstein says that HPV alters a person’s immune system and causes cells to undergo cancerous changes. Most types do not cause symptoms or health problems, while others can lead to genital warts, cancer of the cervix and other parts of the sex organs, anus, mouth and throat.
There are several tests that can detect HPV. The infection can be found in a Pap smear, after a Pap test has been performed, a procedure used to determine if a woman has cervical cancer. The test can show if cells have been altered by HPV. Another test is a Colposcopy. A solution is placed in the cervix and changes color if HPV cells are present.
To conclude cells are cancerous a biopsy is needed. Mark-Viverito’s biopsy found that she had “low grade dysplasia,” an abnormal change in the cells. Her doctor informed her that for now there is no need for concern, she announced on Twitter, but she needs to “be back within, and no later than, one year for the next visit.”
The New York State Department of Health recommends everyone, even pre-teens, receive the HPV vaccination. Three vaccine shots are given over the course of six months. According to the CDC, it is highly important individuals receive all three shots within that time frame.
“Our health should never be compromised. Annual physicals have to be sacred…” tweeted 45-year-old Mark-Viverito.
By: Amanda Moses
EDITED BY AGNES E. GREEN