The purpose of this presentation is to educate nurses about the most current evidence-based research findings regarding human papillomavirus (HPV). Many healthcare professionals are not current on the research associated with HPV. Thus, they are uncomfortable discussing it with patients. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, genital warts, and cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx. Most individuals have never heard about HPV and its association to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is preventable, and it is the responsibility of the healthcare team to empower patients with scientifically accurate information regarding HPV prevention.
A newly married, 29-year-old, White, healthy female presented to the clinic to obtain her ASCUS/+HPV Pap smear results. Upon receiving the diagnosis of HPV, with tears in her eyes the patient responded to the nurse practitioner, “I have HPV. Does that mean that my husband cheated on me?” The patient was educated about transmission, clearance, and risks of HPV. Her question was answered by the nurse practitioner based on evidence-based practice literature. A new onset of HPV does not necessarily mean that infidelity has taken place. Research confirms that a healthy immune system can clear HPV in 12 to 24 months from the time of transmission. HPV persistence can occur for up to 10 to 15 years; therefore, it is possible for a partner to have contracted HPV from a previous partner and transmit it to a current partner. It is also possible the patient's partner recently cheated on her; research confirms both possibilities.
Research literature indicates that scientifically current HPV skill-building and informational resources are needed to help healthcare providers meet the concerns of their patients. HPV research has rapidly progressed; however, public knowledge has not kept pace with the scientific advances. Female patients are seeking specific information about HPV from their healthcare teams. This is why it is important for healthcare professionals, including nurse practitioners and nurses, to stay informed about the most recent and scientifically accurate HPV research.