Abnormal cervical cell changes are usually thought to result from past human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. There are different types of HPV infections and only some of these cause cervical cell changes.
HPV, like other viral infections such as those associated with colds and flu, is usually cleared by the person’s own immune system. Unlike colds and flu, HPV usually has no symptoms. But certain types of ‘high risk’ HPV infections can incorporate the viral DNA into cervical cell DNA structures. With time, this can create more and more abnormal changes, and finally develop into cancer.
It is believed that HPV is usually sexually transmitted. Unlike other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, HPV does not cause tubal obstructions or infertility. As the cell changes can take some time to develop, doctors cannot say when the infection happened or which partner was the culprit.