HPV Reinfection

Last Modified: September 25, 2005

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I was recently diagnosed with stage IB1 adenocarcinoma of the cervix. I received treatment and everything is clean. I am very frustrated that there are no tests to see if my husband still has HPV, as well as information stating that condoms may not be effective in preventing transmission. Can I be reinfected with HPV and have a recurrence even if we use condoms? What about without condoms?

Answer

Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

You have asked some difficult but common questions. The HPV virus may be controlled or cleared by the body's immune system over time. You and your husband likely share the same type (or strain) of HPV, and new warts or lesions are usually thought to be a reactivation of a previously suppressed infection, rather than new reinfection. While condom use appears to protect the areas that are covered, skin that is not covered by the condom, like the labia and the scrotum, are still susceptible to infection. Currently, we do not recommend that patients use condoms after the diagnosis of cervical cancer in the setting of a long term monogamous relationship, because mutual exposure has already occurred.

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