FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 3, 2023) – January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and Dr. Melissa (Mel) Irvine, DNP is working to make it known that screenings and vaccines typically related to cervical health are not just a concern for women in their childbearing and adolescent stages of life. Issues stemming from HPV can develop decades later, affecting both men and women in a variety of ways you may not be aware of.
“Regular screenings have greatly improved early detection and treatment of cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine provides a form of protection,” said Dr. Mel. “Though HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, it is not only an issue for women. Most people don’t know that HPV can also cause penile, vaginal, vulvar, head, neck, throat and rectal cancers – and they can be aggressive.”
Healthcare professionals initially offered HPV vaccines to young men and women aged 11 and up, before they became sexually active to help prevent the spread of the virus. People in their teens and twenties are experiencing more partners than past generations, allowing infection to happen decades before HPV-related cancers develop. It’s also important to look beyond our youth since people tend to go through periods of separation and divorce in their 30’s and 40’s, and sometimes beyond. All these factors influence the number of partners we have in a lifetime, in turn increasing the risk of catching and spreading HPV.
“HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection among sexually active people. Since most don’t experience symptoms, they transmit it unknowingly,” explained Dr. Mel.
At this time, only women can have their cervix tested and know for sure if they have HPV. Men have no way of knowing until they develop symptoms like warts, or until they get diagnosed with associated cancers. It’s best to talk to your provider to see if you’re a good candidate for vaccination, which is now available up to the age of 45. Keep in mind it is only protective for those that have no history of HPV.
Celibacy, including abstinence from intercourse and other intimate activities, is the only way to completely prevent HPV and any other sexually transmitted diseases. Vaccination and condoms are the most common forms of protection. It’s best to discuss your history and risks with your provider to determine optimal methods of protection that meet your unique needs.
“We need to feel comfortable to enjoy being intimate,” explained Dr. Mel. “Feeling safe and protected is an important part of self-care. Reducing unnecessary risks to our health and well-being also allows us to be present and enjoy those intimate moments even more.”
As a Sexual Medicine provider with over 15 years of experience, Dr. Mel takes pride in empowering and educating men and women so they can be their own health advocates and make the best-informed decisions regarding treatment options and quality of life. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit drmelirvine.com, or call 239-351-5663. You can also follow her on Facebook for news, updates, and special offers.
About Dr. Melissa (Mel) Irvine, DNP
Dr. Mel has been in the medical field for over 15 years and is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brenau Women’s College, in Gainesville, Georgia, her Master of Science in Nursing at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her doctorate degree at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Mel is passionate about empowering and educating women so they can be their own advocates and make the best-informed decisions regarding treatment options and quality of life. As a Sexual Medicine provider, she takes pride in providing high-quality personalized care to meet the sexual health needs of both men and women. Her interest in Sexual Medicine took her to San Diego, where she completed a preceptorship with the leading Sexual Medicine provider in the U.S., Dr. Irwin Goldstein. She is an avid learner and regularly attends educational training and conferences to stay current on the latest and most innovative treatment options.