HPV and Cervical Cancer

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What is HPV?
Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease.There are more than 40 types of HPV that can cause genital infections in both men and women.These types of HPV can also cause infections in the throat and mouth. HPV is not the same as HIV or herpes.

In the United States alone, approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives. There is no treatment for the virus, and in most cases, no noticeable symptoms will appear.

How do people get it?

HPV is passed by genital contact, most often during anal and vaginal sex. HPV can be passed on between straight and same sex partners even when the infected partner has no symptoms.
young woman

What are the symptoms?

  • Cervical Cancer - usually does not exhibit symptoms until it is in an advanced stage. Because of this, it is very important that women get screened regularly for cervical cancer. This can be achieved by having an annual pap smear or an HPV test that looks for the virus.
  • Genital Warts - usually appear as a bump or small bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. Warts can appear within weeks or months of infection - even if the sexual partner had no symptoms. If left untreated, they might go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size and number. They will not turn into cancer.
  • Other HPV-related cancers - Other cancers include vulva, penis, anus and oropharynx (back of the throat). These diagnoses are treated as cancer, not HPV. For more information on these cancers, visit cancer.gov

How can it be prevented?

Vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer. These vaccines are given in three shots. It is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. Visit our clinic page for dates and times.

The safest and surest way is to avoid any sexually transmitted disease is to abstain from sex, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected. To test for an HPV infection, physicians first perform a PAP smear to test for cell changes in the cervix.If PAP results are abnormal, an HPV test to directly check for the high-risk virus type is performed.

Condoms may lower the risk of HPV. To be most effective, they should be used with every sex act, from start to finish. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom - so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.

How effective is the HPV vaccine?

Studies have proven the vaccine to be almost 100% effective in preventing diseases caused by the four HPV types covered in the vaccine. These include pre-cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina, and genital warts. The vaccine has mainly been studied in young women who had not been exposed to any of the four HPV types in the vaccine.

The vaccine was less effective in young women who had already been exposed to one of the HPV types covered by the vaccine, but may still benefit from Gardasil. Clinical trials have shown that women with current or past infection with one or more of the HPV types contained in the vaccine were protected from disease caused by the remaining vaccine HPV types.

This vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections, genital warts, pre cancers or cancer.

Who should get the vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that females and males ages 9-26 get the 3-shot series of HPV vaccine.