By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - January 30, 2019
Approximately 79 million Americans live with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is responsible for multiple types of cancers, such as cervical, anal, vaginal and head and neck cancers. Those three letters have a lot of meaning, so what does HPV mean for you? The Society of Gynecologic Oncology put together nine things you should know.
Is human papillomavirus (HPV) rare?
No, HPV is a very common virus. The HPV infection is present in 45 percent of men between the ages of 18 and 59, and 40 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59. While an HPV infection can cause cervical cancer, most people with HPV will not get cervical cancer.
Is cervical cancer a big deal?
Yes. More than 13,240 women will be diagnosed and 4,170 women will die from cervical cancer each year.
If you practice safe sex, will you get HPV?
The practice of safe sex will not necessarily protect someone from getting HPV since it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. However, safe sex practices such as condom use are still encouraged.
I do not know anyone with HPV. Am I the only one?
No, you are not alone. The HPV infection is present in 45 percent of men between the ages of 18 and 59, and 40 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59.
Should I get a Pap smear or HPV test?
Yes. Women should get a Pap smear and a frequent HPV test to screen for HPV and precancerous changes on the cervix and vagina. The frequency of the tests and types of tests will be determined by your age, special risks or circumstances and are available in special guidelines that your provider will know.
If you get an abnormal Pap smear or test result, do you need to follow up with your doctor?
Yes. If you get an abnormal Pap smear or test result, you should follow up with your doctor promptly.
Does HPV cause any other cancers?
Yes. An HPV infection can cause vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, mouth and throat cancer.
Can HPV cause infertility?
No. The HPV infection and vaccine does not cause infertility. The treatment for cervical cancer can cause infertility.
Since schools do not require the HPV vaccine, is it still necessary for boys and girls to receive the vaccine?
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and boys between 11 and 12 years of age should get two shots of the HPV vaccine six to 12 months apart.
The above information was composed by the members of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO). Sources include data from the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control website, and a report published by the National Center for Health Statistics titled, “Prevalence of HPV in Adults Aged 18–69: United States, 2011–2014.”