Q: What is HPV and is it common?
A: HPV, or the human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are over 100 subtypes of HPV; with types 16 and 18 being the most common.
Q: How can I tell that I have HPV?
A: There are often no signs or symptoms of HPV infection. However, with screening, which includes a Pap smear and/or HPV DNA test, HPV can be detected.
Q: Can HPV lead to cancer?
A: The majority of individuals do not develop cancer. However, with persistent HPV infection, HPV can lead to cervical cancer. In addition, HPV infection is also responsible for 91% of anal cancers, 69% of vulvar cancers, 75% of vaginal cancers, 63% of penile cancers, and 72% of oropharyngeal cancers. This is one reason why it is very important to have annual examinations with your healthcare provider.
Q: Should I, or my children, be vaccinated?
A: Yes. The most common way to protect against HPV infection is to get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is three doses given over 6 months. Vaccination before sexual activity reduces your risk of contracting the virus by 99%. There are three vaccines currently available for use. These include: Gardasil, which protects against types 6 and 11 (genital warts) & 16 and 18, Gardasil 9, which protects against types 6, 11, 16, 18, and 5 other high risk types and Cervarix, which protects against types 16 and 18. Both females and males should be vaccinated.