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Ten Things Every Woman Should Know About HPV

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) related image Photo: Getty Images

You may have heard about a viral infection called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV often causes changes in the cervix— the lower part of the uterus (womb) that connects the uterus to the vagina. High-risk HPV infections can also lead to cancer.

Here are the top 10 things you should know about HPV:

  1. HPV is a group of more than 150 viruses, 40 of which are sexually transmitted. At least eight out of every 10 women who have ever had sex will get HPV at some time in their lives. HPV is most common in young women who are in their late teens or early 20s, according to the American Cancer Society.
  2. It is possible to keep passing HPV back and forth from partner to partner. Condoms can help prevent HPV, but are not foolproof. HPV may be present on skin that is not covered by the condom. The only way to completely prevent giving or getting HPV is by not having vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  3. There is no treatment for HPV viruses. There are treatments for the cell changes in the cervix that HPV can cause. If your Pap test shows cell changes, your doctor or nurse will discuss these treatments with you if you need them.
  4. It is unknown for certain once a person has some types of HPV if they could always be a carrier of the virus. Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) show some types of HPV either goes away on its own, or cannot be found, within one to two years. This happens in 90 percent of women. Once the virus is gone, it is highly unlikely a person will contract that type of HPV again, but you can contract a different type. However, be aware some types of HPV can persist for years.
  5. Persistent HPV infections are now recognized as the cause of essentially all cervical cancers, according to NIH. It was estimated in 2010, about 12,000 women in the United States would be diagnosed with this type of cancer and more than 4,000 would die from it. Cervical cancer is diagnosed in nearly half a million women each year worldwide, claiming a quarter of a million lives annually.
    1. In addition to cervical cancer, HPV infection accounts for approximately five percent of all cancers worldwide, according to the International Journal of Cancer. HPV can cause cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, and penis. Oral HPV infection causes some cancers of the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.) Some types of HPV infection also cause genital warts.
    2. There are many myths about how people get HPV. You cannot get HPV from being unclean, from toilet seats, or from having an abortion. Also, you are not more likely to get HPV from having rough sex or sex during your period, and HPV will not affect pregnancy or the chances of getting pregnant. If HPV leads to cervical changes that need to be treated, the treatment should not affect your chances of getting pregnant, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    3. It is possible to have HPV and pass it to your partner without knowing it. If you have HPV and have been with your partner for awhile, your partner is likely to have HPV too. There is no way to know if your partner gave you HPV, or if you gave HPV to your partner, according to the CDC. HPV screening tests are recommended for women over age 30 to find early signs of cervical cancer before you ever get sick. That way, problems can be found and removed before they ever become cancer. HPV screening is different than Pap test. A Pap test screens for cancer cells and an HPV test screens for presence of the HPV virus ; however both tests can be performed during the same doctor visit.
    4. There is presently no HPV screening test for males. You may want to let your partner know that HPV is a very common virus and that most people who have sex will get HPV at some time during their lives.
    5. Women younger than 30 should not get the HPV test with the Pap test as part of their normal health visit. After age 30, HPV is much less common so screening is warranted. However, if your Pap test shows certain cell changes, your doctor may want to do an HPV test even if you are younger than 30. This is not the same as getting having the HPV test with the Pap test as part of your normal health visit.

    For more information about HPV and your cancer risk, visit:
    CDC, Common questions about HPV and cervical cancer. http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/common-questions.htm

    American Cancer Society, Thinking about Testing for HPV? http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/InfectiousAgents/HPV/thinking-about-testing-for-hpv

    National Cancer Institute, Human Papillomaviruses and Cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/HPV#r2

    Parkin DM. The global health burden of infection-associated cancers in the year 2002. International Journal of Cancer 2006; 118(12):3030–3044. PubMed Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16404738

    Reviewed July 14, 2011
    by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
    Edited by Alison Stanton

    Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Add a Comment8 Comments

I've been told by 4 different doctors that you cannot keep passing the same strain of hpv back & forth if you are with the same partner. That it doesn't ping pong. It is possible to pass a different strain, and it is possible to carry more than one strain.

August 21, 2014 - 1:37pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am not for that vaccine thing because it has side effects that can be really serious. One friend recommended Papiloma krema, its herbal creme and it killed my warts in about month and they never returned. But my GWs were only 3 months old.

August 12, 2014 - 2:01am

Hi ,
Thanks for sharing this article.Great information to be known.You have properly covered all the information which made it easy to understand.

June 23, 2014 - 2:44am

Thank you for sharing , and highlighting more about HPV.

February 6, 2014 - 2:57pm

Thank you for increasing awareness to HPV. It is becoming so common that we need to spread awareness for it.

Marielaina Perrone DDS

October 7, 2012 - 3:36pm

In 2010 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, stage 2B, and underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including 3 brachytherapys. After recently having a smear test and a scan, nothing has shown up. My question is, have the treatments killed the HPV virus?

October 2, 2011 - 10:46am
Blogger (reply to clickityclick)

I wish I knew the answer to your question. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy are treatments for a specific condition as you know. I do not know their secondary effects, such as killing a virus. It's an excellent question and by now I hope you have received an answer. I'd love to know what you found out.

January 29, 2012 - 8:12pm

There is no medical treatment to cure HPV because it is a virus. There are surgical options which can risk your cervix competency should you become pregnant. There is no great treatment option I know of except a homeopathic remedy which was developed in Germany. How do I know this? I lived it.

At first I tried the traditional medical HPV treatments of freezing the cervix and laser surgery. Each time, the condition came back worse. I sought treatment from Dr. Abrahm Ber, a homeopath in Scottsdale, AZ. He gave me a 60 day remedy, I changed my diet and thought positive thoughts. That was 19 years ago and I have had normal Pap smears ever since. How does it work? I have no idea. I do know I am willing to face the embarassment of admitting to HPV because I can educate women that there is an option not utilized by Western Medicine and I know it can help.

If you are ready and willing to be open to a treatment that's different, but effective, I would highly recommend this homeopathic remedy. I WISH I remembered what it was called. Do some research and I'm sure you can find out.

Good luck!
Davina Fankhauser
President - Fertility Within Reach

July 21, 2011 - 2:27pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

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