- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.