HPV

General Info

For more information about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), visit: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/

What is it?

  • Human Papillomavirus is a group of more that 100 different types of viruses that only infect and affect humans.
  • Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection.
  • HPV can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers.
  • There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of females and males.
  • These viruses can infect the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), and anus. They can also infect the lining of the vagina, cervix, and rectum.
  • HPV can also infect the mouth and throat.
  • Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.
  • Anyone who is having or has ever had sex can get HPV.
  • HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives.
  • Most people who are infected with HPV will not have any symptoms, and will clear the infection naturally before it causes any health problems.

How do I get it?

How is HPV spread?
  • Genital HPV is passed from an infected person to an unifected person during sex.
  • Sex is putting the penis into the vagina, rectum, or mouth; and/or putting the mouth on the penis, vagina, or rectum.
  • HPV is passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex.
  • HPV may also be passed on during oral sex.
  • Straight and same-sex partners can spread HPV, even when they do not have any signs or symptoms.
  • Most infected persons do not know they are infected and unknowingly transmit the virus to their sex partner(s).
  • A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sex with an infected person.
  • Anyone who is having or has ever had sex can get HPV.
  • HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives.
  • It is possible to become infected with more than one type of HPV.
If I have HPV and I'm pregnant, can I spread it to my baby?
  • Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery.
  • In these cases, the child can develop a rare condition in which warts grow in the throat. About 820 children get this condition every year in the U.S.

How common is it?

  • Approximately 79 million people living in the U.S. are currently infected with Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
  • About 14 million people become newly infected with the HPV virus every year.
  • HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active people will get at least one type of HPV virus at some point in their lives.
  • About 360,000 people in the U.S. get genital warts each year.
  • About 10,300 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer each year.
  • HPV causes other cancers, including some vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers:
    • 2,100 vulvar cancers each year in the U.S.
    • 500 vaginal cancers each year in the U.S.
    • 600 penile cancers each year in the U.S.
    • anal cancers: 2,800 in women and 1,500 in men each year in the U.S.
    • throat cancers: 1,700 in women and 6,700 in men each year in the U.S.
    • (tobacco and alcohol use may play a role with HPV to cause throat cancers)

What happens if I get it?

Most HPV infections (90%) go away by themselves within two years.
Most people with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) never develop symptoms or health problems.
There is no certain way to know which people infected with HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.
Persons with weak immune systems (including persons with HIV) may be less able to fight off HPV and are more likely to develop health problems from it.

Sometimes, HPV infections will persist and can cause a variety of serious health problems including:

  • Genital warts (warts on the genital areas)
  • Cervical cancer (cancer on a woman's cervix)
  • Other serious cancers, including genital cancers (cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus), and a type called oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

ALL cases of genital warts are caused by HPV.
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

Signs and Symptoms

  • In most cases the virus goes away and it does not lead to any health problems.
  • When the virus does not go away, HPV can cause normal cells to become abnormal; most of the time you cannot see or feel these cell changes.
  • There is no certain way to know which people infected with HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.
  • Persons with weak immune systems (including persons with HIV) may be less able to fight off HPV and are more likely to develop health problems from it.

The types of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that cause cancers.

Genital warts:
  • Usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area.
  • They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower.
  • Healthcare providers can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.
  • Warts can appear within weeks or months after sex with an infected partner—even if the infected partner has no signs of genital warts.
  • If left untreated, genital warts might go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size or number.
  • The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.
Cervical cancer:
  • Usually does not cause symptoms until it is quite advanced.
  • Cancer often takes years to develop after a woman gets HPV.
  • Screening tests can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early, before they ever turn into cancer.
  • For this reason, it is important for women to get regular screening for cervical cancer:
  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
Other cancers caused by HPV:
  • May not have signs or symptoms until they are advanced and hard to treat.
  • Cancer often takes years—even decades—to develop after a person gets HPV.
  • Include some cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (throat).

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis:

IWTK does NOT perform testing for Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Genital Warts:

Healthcare providers can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up.

Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
The Pap test:
  • Can be done in a doctor's office or clinic.
  • Recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old.
  • Is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available.
  • The healthcare provider will perform a pelvic exam using an instrument called a speculum to widen your vagina.
  • The doctor healthcare provider will examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it.
  • The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory.
  • The laboratory will check to be sure that the cells are normal.
  • The only cancer for which the Pap test screens is cervical cancer. It does notscreen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers.
  • If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
The HPV test:
  • If you are getting the HPV test in addition to the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV by the laboratory.
  • If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your healthcare provider at the same time.
  • If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your healthcare provider may then tell you that you can wait as long as five years for your next screening. (But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a checkup).
  • Talk with your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional about whether the HPV test is right for you.

HPV tests are available to help screen women aged 30 years and older for cervical cancer. These HPV tests are not recommended to screen men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years. There is no general HPV test for men or women to check one's overall "HPV status." There is not an approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat.

Treatment:

There is no treatment for the HPV virus itself, but there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause.

Genital Warts:
  • Can be removed with treatment(s) applied by a healthcare provider or the person himself/herself.
  • Some people choose not to treat warts, but wait to see if they disappear on their own.
  • If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number.
Cervical Cancer:
  • Most treatable when it is diagnosed early.
  • Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops.
  • Prevention is always better than treatment.
Other HPV-related Cancers:
  • More treatable when diagnosed early.

Visit http://www.cancer.org/ for more information.

Prevention

Can Human Papillomavirus (HPV) be prevented?

There are several ways that people can lower their chances of getting HPV:

  • Abstain from sexual intercourse.
  • Condoms may lower the risk of getting HPV - use a condom correctly, every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral), with every partner.
    • HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom, so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.
  • Limit your sexual partners. The more sex partners you have, the greater your risk of encountering someone who has this or other STIs.
  • Get vaccinated before becoming sexually active.

There are prevention strategies for different health problems caused by HPV. A person can lower their risk of:

  • Genital warts by using condoms the right way, all the time
  • Cervical cancer by getting routine screening if they are a woman aged 21–65 years, and following up on any abnormal results
  • Oropharyngeal cancers by avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol intake

HPV vaccin​es can prevent many diseases and cancers caused by HPV.

HPV Vaccines:

  • HPV vaccines are safe and effective
  • HPV vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer.
  • HPV vaccines are given in three shots over six months; it is important to get all three doses to get the best protection.
  • Boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 are most likely to develop the best protection provided by HPV vaccines because their immune response to vaccine is better than older women and men.
Girls and women:
  • Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
  • One of these vaccines (Gardasil) also protects against most genital warts, and has been shown to protect against anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
  • Either vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.
  • These vaccines can also be given to girls beginning at 9 years of age.
Boys and men:
  • One vaccine (Gardasil) is available to protect males against most genital warts and anal cancers.
  • Gardasil is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old boys, and for males 13 through 21 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.
  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men should receive the vaccine through age 26 years.
  • Males 22–26 years of age may also get the vaccine.

Get information about the vaccines that can prevent HPV infection by visiting http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html