Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 types of which can be easily spread through direct sexual contact, from the skin and mucous membranes of infected people to the skin and mucous membranes of their partners. They can be spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex. In addition to other genital and throat cancers, HPV causes most cervical cancers.
Based on data from 2006 to 2010 from the CDC, about 33,200 HPV-associated cancers occur in the United States each year: about 20,600 among females. In general, HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancers. Fortunately, of all the gynecologic cancers, only cervical cancer has a screening test—the Pap test—that can find this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
Anyone who has ever been sexually active (that is, engaged in skin-to-skin sexual conduct, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex) can get HPV. HPV infections are more likely in those who have many sex partners or have sex with someone who has had many partners. Because the infection is so common, most people get HPV infections shortly after becoming sexually active for the first time; although it is possible for a person who has had only one partner can get HPV.
There are ways to lessen one's chances of ever contracting HPV -- vaccination and condom use. HPV vaccination before sexual activity can reduce the risk of infection by the HPV types targeted by the vaccine. HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months to protect against HPV infection and the health problems that HPV infection can cause. HPV vaccines offer the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three vaccine doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person. That's why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21. Correct and consistent condom use is also associated with reduced HPV transmission between sexual partners; however, because areas not covered by a condom can be infected by the virus, condoms are unlikely to provide complete protection against the infection.
Talk to Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle at your next appointment to see what tests or vaccines might be appropriate for you.
Read more online at Cancer.org