at a Glance
What is HPV?
- A very common infection
- A few types can lead to cervical and other
- Treatment available for cell changes in the
cervix caused by HPV Spread easily by skin-to-skin contact
- There are ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are
more than 100 types of HPV. Some types produce warts - plantar warts on the
feet and common hand warts. About 40 types of HPV can infect the genital.
Genital HPV infections are very common. HPV
is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point
in their lives. But most people who have HPV don't know it. Most HPV infections have no harmful effect at
all. Some types of HPV may cause genital warts. These are called low-risk
types of HPV. Some types of HPV may cause cell changes that sometimes lead to
cervical cancer and certain other genital and throat cancers. These are called
high-risk types. Although most HPV infections go away within 8
to 13 months, some will not. HPV infections that do not go away can
"hide" in the body for years and not be detected. That's why it is
impossible to know exactly when someone got infected, how long they've been
infected, or who passed the infection to them.
If you have HPV, you should not be ashamed or
afraid. Most people who have had sex have HPV at some point in their lives. And
most infections go away on their own.
HPV Cause Cancer?
Yes, high-risk types of genital HPV can cause
cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and throat. The type of
cancer HPV causes most often is cervical cancer.
Most HPV infections go away by themselves and
don't cause cancer. But abnormal cells can develop when high-risk types of HPV
don't go away. If these abnormal cells are not detected and treated, they can
lead to cancer.
Most of us recover from HPV infections with no
health problems at all. It is not fully known why some people develop long-term
HPV infection, precancerous abnormal cell changes, or cancer.
But we do know that women who have diseases
that make it difficult for them to fight infections are at higher risk of
cervical cancer. We also know that cigarette smoking increases the risk of
Is HPV Spread?
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact — usually
during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Are the Symptoms of High-Risk HPV?
There aren't any HPV symptoms for high-risk
types of HPV in women or men. Most people feel fine even when they have cell
changes caused by HPV.
How Can I Know If I Have High-Risk HPV?
Because HPV is such a common infection that
usually goes away on its own, there is often no reason for you to even worry
about whether you have it. Most people never know when they have HPV.
If a woman does find out she has HPV, she
usually finds out as a result of having an abnormal Pap test result.
Pap tests are very important tests for finding abnormal cells on the cervix
that are caused by HPV.
There is an HPV test for women, but it is only
used in certain situations. Health care providers may recommend the HPV test
HPV testing is not recommended for all women
because HPV is very common and usually goes away without causing any health
problems. For women age 30 or older, a test for HPV can be done at the same
time as a Pap test. If both results are normal, a woman has a very low risk of
developing cervical cancer.
- Women as a follow-up to a Pap test that finds abnormal cells or when Pap tests
results are not clear
- Women over 30 when they have a Pap test.
She will not need a Pap and HPV test for five
Some women age 30 or older see this choice as
more appealing than having a Pap test every three years.