- With Mayo Clinic gynecologist and obstetrician
Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.read biographyclose window
Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.
Dr. Mary Gallenberg is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and medical oncology.
An Antigo, Wis., native, Dr. Gallenberg is a consultant in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and an assistant professor at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Gallenberg has been with Mayo Clinic since 1990. She was on the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource editorial board and has been honored for excellence in teaching. She also won a Mayo Clinic Excellence Through Teamwork award.
Tests and diagnosis (3)
- Pap smear: Still needed after hysterectomy?
- Pap smear: Do I need one if I'm a virgin?
- Cervical dysplasia: Is it cancer?
HPV infection: How does it cause cervical cancer?
How does HPV cause cervical cancer?
from Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.
Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) — a sexually transmitted infection — is the most common cause of cervical cancer. When a woman is exposed to HPV, her immune system usually prevents the virus from doing any serious harm. But in a small number of women, the virus survives for years. Eventually, the virus can lead to the conversion of normal cells on the surface of the cervix into cancerous cells.
At first, the cells may only show signs of a viral infection. Eventually, however, the cells may develop precancerous changes. This is known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Typically, the precancerous changes go away spontaneously. In some cases, however — particularly for women who have altered immune systems — cervical intraepithelial neoplasia may eventually progress to invasive cervical cancer.
It's not clear why some women are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Some types of HPV are simply more aggressive than are others. Cigarette smoking also increases the risk of cervical cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, women who smoke are about twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop cervical cancer.
There are two HPV vaccines available — Gardasil and Cervarix. They offer protection from several of the most dangerous types of HPV. Gardasil is approved for boys and men, girls and women ages 9 to 26. Cervarix is approved for girls and women ages 9 to 25.
Remember, if you're sexually active, the best way to prevent HPV and other sexually transmitted infections is to remain in a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. When you have sexual intercourse outside of a long-term monogamous relationship, always have your partner use a condom. Regular screening for cervical cancer and precancerous changes of the cervix is important, too.Next question
Pap smear: Still needed after hysterectomy?
- Palefsky JM, et al. Virology of human papillomavirus infections and the link to cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 4, 2011.
- Holschneider CH, et al. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: Definition, incidence, and pathogenesis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 4, 2011.
- Reichman R, et al. Treatment and prevention of human papillomavirus infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 4, 2011.
- Castle P, et al. Recommendations for the use of human papillomavirus vaccines. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 4, 2011.
- What are the risk factors for cervical cancer? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CervicalCancer/DetailedGuide/cervical-cancer-risk-factors. Accessed Jan. 4, 2011.
- Gardasil (prescribing information). Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co. Inc.; 2010. http://www.gardasil.com/gardasil-product-information/index.html. Accessed Jan. 5, 2011.
- Cervarix (prescribing information). Research Triangle Park, N.C.: GlaxoSmithKline; 2010. http://us.gsk.com/products/assets/us_cervarix.pdf. Accessed Jan. 5, 2011.