Your HPV Questions Answered
You probably have a lot of HPV questions. By answering some of the most common ones below, we want to help you understand what is going on. If you don’t see your question answered, you can always contact us, as we would be happy to provide you with additional information. ASK YOUR UNANSWERED HPV QUESTIONS HERE.
WHAT IS HPV?
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HPV?
HOW COMMON IS HPV?
HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I HAD HPV?
Genital warts are flesh-coloured bumps that can be flat or raised, and can appear like small, cauliflower-type growths on the skin. Although genital warts may not cause symptoms, some women do feel itching or have vaginal discharge or bleeding after having sex.
Abnormal cells on the cervix don’t usually cause symptoms and the best way to know if you have them is to get regular Pap tests. Pap tests are the most effective way to catch abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer early, so that they can be treated more easily. Speak to your doctor about when you should have a Pap test.
CAN I GET HPV EVEN IF I DON’T HAVE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE?
IS THERE A CURE FOR HPV?
WHAT ARE CURRENT TREATMENTS FOR HPV?
CAN HPV BE TREATED NATURALLY?
CAN HPV CAUSE ANY OTHER KINDS OF CANCER BESIDES CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer (which the American Cancer Society expects 12,820 new cases will be diagnosed in 2017) is by far the most significant concern. However, high-risk types of HPV also have been linked to less-common cancers of the vulva (3,490 women), vagina (2,140 women), anus (2,750 women and 1,900 men) and penis (1,280 men).
Some research also has suggested a link between high-risk types of HPV and other cancers, such as oral (mouth and throat) cancer. However, these other HPV-related cancers are still being investigated and are thought to be relatively rare.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM HPV?
There are 3 main ways to help reduce your risk of HPV infection:
- Have regular checkups and Pap tests. These will help catch problems early while they are still easy to treat
- Practice safe sex
- Talk to your doctor to find out if HPV vaccination, which helps protect against certain types of HPV, might be right for you
DO MEN GET HPV TOO?
However, although HPV infection has been linked to cancer of the penis and anus, these cancers are very rare in men. For this reason, as well as because a good, reliable way to collect a sample of male genital skin cells that would allow detection of HPV has yet to be discovered, there is currently no FDA-approved HPV test for men.
IF I HAVE HPV, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT I WILL GET CERVICAL CANCER?
In most cases, the body’s immune system fights off or suppresses the virus before abnormal cells develop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 70 percent of new HPV infections (including those that are “high risk”) go away within one year, and 91 percent are gone within two years.
It’s only when high-risk types of HPV stay “active” for a long period of time that the risk of developing abnormal cells that can turn into cervical cancer increases significantly.
In one study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, 4% of women who were found through testing to have high-risk HPV developed pre-cancerous cervical disease (CIN 3) in the following three years. When watched for 10 years, about 7% of the women developed advanced cervical disease.
Overall, it’s estimated that women who have a long-lasting infection with high-risk HPV are 200-plus times more likely to develop pre-cancerous cervical disease than those without it.
OTHER THAN HPV, WHAT ARE OTHER RISK FACTORS FOR CERVICAL CANCER IN WOMEN?
IS THERE A TEST TO DETECT HPV?
HOW CAN I PREVENT HPV?
You can also consider getting vaccinated against HPV. There are 2 vaccines available that help to protect against certain types of HPV. The HPV vaccines provide protection against 2 types of HPV that cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer.
It is important to get pap tests done regularly, even if you have been vaccinated against HPV. Talk to your doctor to find out more about your options for protecting yourself against HPV.
IF I GOT THE HPV VACCINE, CAN I STILL GET GENITAL WARTS OR CERVICAL CANCER?
It is important to get a regular Pap and – if you’re over 30 – an HPV test, even if you’ve been vaccinated. A Pap can identify abnormal cells and help make sure abnormal cells are diagnosed and treated early.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF I HAVE AN ABNORMAL PAP TEST?
Abnormal Pap results means there is a change in the cells of the cervix. Changes in the cells could be a result of a vaginal infection, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), HPV (which is a specific type of STI), or hormone level changes, among other causes.
Discuss your results with your doctor, who will let you know if further tests, such as an HPV or STI test, are needed.
WHAT IS CERVICAL DYSPLASIA AND WHAT IS THE CONNECTION TO HPV?
- CIN I — mild dysplasia (a few cells are abnormal)
- CIN II — moderate to marked dysplasia and
- CIN III — severe dysplasia to carcinoma-in-situ (precancerous cells only in the top layer of the cervix).
Eighty to ninety percent of women with cervical dysplasia have an HPV infection.