HPV/PAP Smears


What is HPV?

  • HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US.
  • There are many different types of HPV and certain types can lead to 6 different cancers.
  • Nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives, but not all
    will turn into cancer.

How is HPV Spread?

Through intimate skin-to-skin contact by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the
virus. At any age, having a new sex partner is a risk factor for getting a new HPV infection.

HPV Cancers:

Most HPV Infections will go away by themselves, but others may last longer and cause certain types of cancers of the:

  • Cervix, vagina, and vulva in women
  • Penis in men
  • Anus, back of the throat, the base of the tongue and tonsils in both women and men

How do I know If I have HPV?

  • Most people have no signs or symptoms.
  • Many types are not detected until they develop into cancer.
  • The only HPV cancer with a recommended screening test is a pap smear for cervical cancer.
  • Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal pap smear result.
  • Some people find out they have HPV when they develop genital warts, which is a different type
    of HPV that is less likely to develop into cancer, but is still possible. Genital warts may become uncomfortable and even painful.

HPV may lie dormant for many years. Someone may develop genital warts, have an abnormal pap smear or develop cancer, months to years after having a sexual encounter. Therefore, timing to determining when someone acquired an HPV infection, cannot be definitively determined.

HPV Prevention:

  • Obtain routine health exams and routine pap smears
  • Using condoms can lower the risk tor HPV infection, but HPV may infect areas not covered by a
  • Safe sexual practices to decrease exposure, because each new sexual encounter increases the risk
    of an HPV infection.

HPV vaccination is cancer prevention:

  • HPV vaccination can prevent over 90% of HPV cancers and works by preventing the infections that cause these cancers. This does not treat any existing infections or diseases.
  • The HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening have made cervical cancer one of the most
    preventable cancers.

The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine:

  • CDC recommends HPV vaccination at ages 11-12, but may be given as early as age 9 and
    provides the most benefit when given before a person is sexually active and before exposure to HPV.
  • This vaccine is available for all boys and girls aged 9-26 and is approved by the FDA & CDC for
    adults aged 27-45.
  • The HPV vaccine is not recommended for everyone older then 27 because it is most
    effective when given at a young age, before exposure to HPV.
  • However, older individuals at risk for acquiring a new HPV infection in the future with
    new partners, might benefit from vaccination.

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