What is HPV?
HPV stands for human papilloma virus. HPV is a very common virus that spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact. It usually has no symptoms, so most people with HPV don't know they have it.
HPV is so common that almost everyone will have HPV at some point in their life.
There are over 100 different strains (or types) of HPV. Most cases of HPV go away on their own. However, some cases can cause warts and others can turn into cancer.
HPV & Cancer
There are 6 cancers linked to HPV: cervical, oropharyngeal, vulvar, vaginal, penile, and anal cancer. The most common are cervical and oropharyngeal cancer. While cervical cancer occurs in women, about 80% of all oropharyngeal cancers occur in men.
HPV causes about 34,800 cases of cancer in the United States every year.
It can take years, or even decades, for HPV to turn into cancer. That is why it is important to get vaccinated early in life.
The HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine was first approved in 2006 to prevent 4 types (strains) of HPV. Since then, the vaccine has been updated to protect against 9 strains of HPV.
The HPV vaccine prevents 92% of all HPV-related cancers, and 90% of genital warts.
The vaccine is recommended for most children starting at age 11. It is usually given with the other middle school vaccinations.
The vaccine is given in a series of 2 or 3 shots. Between age 9-14, you need 2 shots within a year. After age 14, you need 3 shots to be fully protected.
The best way to prevent HPV-related cancer is by getting vaccinated.
Starting at age 21, women (or anyone with a cervix) should get a pap smear every 3 years. This test checks the cervix for cell changes that may turn into cancer. Your doctor may also test your cervix for HPV.
Both these tests help catch any changes early and save lives.
There is no HPV test for men, or for the 5 other HPV-related cancers. That is why it is important we vaccinate all our children.