Why should I be worried about HPV?
Did you know it’s the most common of sexually transmitted infections? 79 million people have Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and 14 million people are newly infected each year. Most do not know they have it and will never develop symptoms or health problems.
HPV doesn’t discriminate, and anyone can get it by having sexual contact with someone else who has the virus, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms. Some types of HPV will go away on their own while others can cause genital warts and various cancers, including cervical and throat cancer.
“It can be 30 years after exposure that a woman learns she has cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus,” said Gina Westhoff, MD, women’s cancer surgeon at Legacy Health. “Fortunately, we can use pap smears to detect cancer and treat it. It’s why regular screening is so very important.”
Throat cancer is another kind of HPV related cancer that’s harder to detect. Impacting men more than women, it’s on the rise and will surpass cervical cancer deaths in the next decade. “There is no screening tool we can use for throat cancer,” said Westhoff. “One way we can detect and diagnose throat cancer is when patients come in complaining of a swollen neck and throat.”
Preventing HPV cancer
“Thankfully, there are ways to keep from getting HPV, the first being getting vaccinated,” said Westhoff. “The vaccine is recommended to be given to children at 11 or 12 years old and is safe and effective, protecting against cancers caused by the virus.” If your children have not received the vaccine, there are catch-up vaccines for both men and women, which they can get into their early 20’s. Other ways to avoid getting the virus or increasing health issues include routine cervical cancer screenings for women ages 21 to 65 years old, using condoms or barriers correctly, and being in a monogamous relationship.
Protect your current and future sexual health and get tested for sexually transmitted infections.
For media inquiries, contact Ashley Stanford Cone.
Related: Should my child get the HPV vaccine?