WHAT IS HPV?
HPV infection is a viral infection that commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). There are more than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of HPV infection cause warts, and some can cause different types of cancer.
Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer. But some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix). Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat (oropharyngeal), have been linked to HPV infection.
These infections are often transmitted sexually or through other skin-to-skin contact. Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20351596)
In most cases, your body’s immune system defeats an HPV infection before it creates warts. When warts do appear, they vary in appearance depending on which kind of HPV is involved:
- Genital warts. These appear as flat lesions, small cauliflower-like bumps or tiny stemlike protrusions. In women, genital warts appear mostly on the vulva but can also occur near the anus, on the cervix or in the vagina.
In men, genital warts appear on the penis and scrotum or around the anus. Genital warts rarely cause discomfort or pain, though they may itch or feel tender.
- Common warts. Common warts appear as rough, raised bumps and usually occur on the hands and fingers. In most cases, common warts are simply unsightly, but they can also be painful or susceptible to injury or bleeding.
- Plantar warts. Plantar warts are hard, grainy growths that usually appear on the heels or balls of your feet. These warts might cause discomfort.
- Flat warts. Flat warts are flat-topped, slightly raised lesions. They can appear anywhere, but children usually get them on the face and men tend to get them in the beard area. Women tend to get them on the legs. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20351596)
Prevention, Vaccination, Treatment
How can I avoid HPV and the health problems it can cause?
You can do several things to lower your chances of getting HPV.
Get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It can protect against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given in the recommended age groups. CDC recommends HPV vaccination at age 11 or 12 years (or can start at age 9 years) and for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.
Get screened for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer.
If you are sexually active
- Use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex. This can lower your chances of getting HPV. But HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against getting HPV;
- Be in a mutually monogamous relationship – or have sex only with someone who only has sex with you.
Who should get vaccinated?
HPV vaccination is recommended at age 11 or 12 years (or can start at age 9 years) and for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.
Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their healthcare provider about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit. Most sexually active adults have already been exposed to HPV, although not necessarily all of the HPV types targeted by vaccination.
At any age, having a new sex partner is a risk factor for getting a new HPV infection. People who are already in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship are not likely to get a new HPV infection.
Can I be treated for HPV or health problems caused by HPV?
There is no treatment for the virus itself. However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause:
- Genital warts can be treated by your healthcare provider or with prescription medication. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number.
- Cervical precancer can be treated. Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops. Prevention is always better than treatment. For more information visit www.cancer.org
- Other HPV-related cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early. For more information visit www.cancer.org
What does the HPV vaccine do?
Various strains of HPV spread through sexual contact and are associated with most cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil 9 is an HPV vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can be used for both girls and boys.
This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if given before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus. In addition, this vaccine can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in women, and can prevent genital warts and anal cancer in women and men.
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-and-men.htm https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/in-depth/hpv-vaccine/art-20047292#:~:text=Gardasil%209%20is%20an
Cancers that HPV cause
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts.
HPV can infect the mouth and throat and cause cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils). This is called oropharyngeal cancer. HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States.
While anal warts themselves are unlikely to develop into anal cancer, people who have had anal warts are more likely to get anal cancer. This is because people who are infected with HPV subtypes that cause anal and genital warts are also more likely to be infected HPV subtypes that cause anal cancer.
How to Talk to your partner how your diagnosis
- Educate yourself. If you have questions about your diagnosis, your partner will likely have some, too. …
- Remember: You didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t feel tempted to apologize for your diagnosis…
- Talk at the right time…
- Explore your options…
- Discuss your future.