Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Cancer
Frequently Asked Questions
What is HPV?
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. HPV affects the genital area of women and men. Approximately 20 million Americans are infected with HPV. Approximately ½ of those infected with HPV are sexually active young adults ages 15-24. HPV infections may cause genital warts (types 6 & 11) and changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer (types 16 & 18).
How can I get HPV?
The virus is often spread through direct skin to skin contact during sexual intercourse, either vaginal or anal. HPV may also be transmitted by non-penetrative sex such as oral-genital, manual-genital and genital-genital contact. Your partner may have HPV and not know it, and transmit the virus to you. Condoms prevent HPV transmission by covering the infected site. However, condoms are not designed to cover or protect all anatomic sites that can transmit the virus.
What are the risk factors for HPV?
- Being young (less than 25 years old)
- Increasing number of sex partners
- Early age at first sexual intercourse (16 years old or younger)
- Male partner has (or has had) multiple sex partners.
How is HPV diagnosed?
A Pap test is the primary screening tool for cervical cancer. The Pap test detects pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, which may be related to HPV.
HPV DNA testing can be done for women with abnormal Pap tests. If you are sexually active, and have never had a Pap screening, you should schedule a test with your primary care provider. There are no HPV tests for men.
What is the treatment for HPV?
A healthy individual can usually fight off the virus without any treatment. However, there is treatment for genital warts, cervical changes and cervical cancer caused by HPV. See links below.
How can I prevent HPV?
Abstinence and lifelong monogamy are the best ways to prevent HPV infection. Gardasil® is a vaccine that protects against four major types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts (types 6, 11, 16 & 18). It is available for females age 9-26. The vaccine does not take the place of routine Pap tests. The vaccine is available through the University Health Services. You may also schedule your well-woman exam with a nurse practitioner at the University Health Services. Call 425-4453 to schedule an appointment.
Myths and Misconceptions
Make sure you understand the facts about HPV.
For Health Care Providers
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/hpv.pdf http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/yourhealth/healthgate/getcontent.asp?URLhealthgate="19230.html" http://www.acha.org/hpv_vaccine/
Gardasil is a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc.
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