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What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a family of over 150 viruses. Some of the viruses affect our skin, causing us to have genital warts, while others attack the membrane linings in our body, potentially causing cancer in the throat, penis, cervix, vagina, vulva, or anus.

Almost all sexually active people have been infected with HPV at some time. Most never have symptoms or problems, and comparatively few develop cancer due to the infection.

How is it transmitted?

HPV viruses are sneaky. They can be transmitted to another person even when there are no physical signs or symptoms of infection.

Usually, the infection occurs during sex—anal, vaginal, or oral. Simple, intimate skin-to-skin contact is enough for transmission.

How do you know you’re infected and what can you do about it?

HPV infection isn’t always quick-acting. You may be infected for years before symptoms appear, if they ever do. Most of the time, the infection goes away on its own and you will never know that you were infected.

Unfortunately, there’s no test to determine if you’re living with the human papillomavirus, although there are tests to screen women for cervical cancer, a cancer that is usually caused by HPV infection.

Genital Warts
You may notice little bumps around your genital area. Check with your healthcare provider to determine if these are genital warts.
There are treatments available for genital warts. Talk to your provider about your options—some treatments you will be able to apply yourself, and others will require a healthcare professional.

In the early stages, there are rarely noticeable symptoms of any of the cancers associated with HPV infection. Should you become symptomatic and cancer is identified, you would begin treatment. That’s a conversation you will want to have with your provider.

As each cancer progresses, you may experience symptoms, such as:

Cervical cancer—unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding

Penile cancer—changes in skin thickness or color, and bumps or sores on the penis, along with a smelly fluid under the foreskin

Oropharyngeal cancer—constant sore throat or ear pain, difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw or tongue, change in the voice

Vaginal cancer—unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain during or after sex, mass or lump in the vagina, pelvic pain

Vulvar cancer—constant itching, pain, bleeding, lumps or bumps or sores, changes in skin thickness or color

Anal cancer—itching or bleeding from the anus, unusual anal discharge, lump or mass on or around the anus, pain or tenderness in the area

How do you prevent infection?

Vaccination is a must, and is recommended for boys and girls/men and women between the ages of 11 and 26. The recommendations vary a bit, depending on your age and sex. Check with your provider to make sure you’re current on HPV and all other vaccines recommended for your age.

Click HERE to see the current recommended immunizations for your age group.

They say that when you have sex with someone, you’re having sex with all of their previous partners. Meaning they could have picked up a disease from a previous partner and might pass it on to you when the two of you become sexually active.

You and your potential partner should get tested for STDs/STIs before beginning an intimate relationship, and then have sex only with your partner, and ask that your partner have sex only with you. It’s called being monogamous. Please be aware that you can control your own behavior, but not that of your partner.

Latex condoms should be used each time the two of you are intimate. Be aware that HPV can be transmitted skin-to-skin. Latex condoms only cover the penis, so skin-to-skin contact around the condom puts one at risk for infection.

You can get screened for cervical cancer and potentially catch it before it develops.

Information is the power
parents have over disease.