NEW ORLEANS — It's a type of infection and cancer that many people want to keep private, yet according to the CDC, at least 75 percent of people, in their reproductive years, have been exposed to the sexually-transmitted HPV.

"I am very, very, very lucky my doctor told me," said Lauren Balazs, 32.

Balazs wants to share her story to help other women, especially millennials like herself.

"It's so common. It's so prevalent. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and it took me a really long time to process that."

At a young age, Lauren went through a cervical cancer scare, caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus. It is spread through sex. There are no symptoms or signs. Many people's bodies clear the virus, but in some men and women it can cause anal, cervical, penile or possibly prostate cancer.

"It could live in your body for years before it even shows up on a pap smear," explained Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Susan Tortorich.

She is the sub-investigator, working on a nationwide study to see if a new investigational vaccine can help women who have early-stage cervical lesions from HPV. She has seen past studies help women who had no idea they had cervical cancer.

"Thank God they came in for the study and we found that they had this because it was by pure chance," she said.

Last year when Lauren did not have health insurance and was concerned over student loan debt, she put off treatment, which greatly upset her doctor. If it had spread, she would have faced a hysterectomy and radiation.

"It was a little bit heartbreaking just because like there is no way you can go back from that," said Balazs.

Thankfully, it had not spread. She had treatment and today has gotten the all clear.

"Many people will not be as lucky as I, so I just want to spread the message," Balazs said.

She hopes women will take advantage of the free study in Metairie to get help.

The study is looking for women 18 to 60 years old who have had an HPV diagnosis and pap smear In the last year. The study is a year long.

To see if you qualify call MedPharmics 504-457-2721 or toll free 1-866-913-5454.