How to Protect Yourself From HPV

Did you know that between 75 and 80 percent of sexually active adults will acquire Human Pappiloma Virus (HPV) before age 50? LDS Hospital Certified Nurse Midwife Lupe Cruz, CNM, DNP, joined us to explain what HPV is and the vaccine for it.
January is designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness month which means it is important to have the conversation about HPV and the importance of early detection.
What is HPV?
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Other HPV types can lead to cancer. Men and women can get cancer of mouth/ throat, and anus/rectum caused by HPV infections. Men can also get penile HPV cancer. In women, HPV infection can also cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancers. It is transmitted through skin to skin contact through vaginal, oral or anal intercourse.
Qucik facts:
  • Condoms do not protect against it because they do not cover all the skin
  • Risk of exposure increases with the number of partners
  • 75-80% of sexually active adults will acquire HPV before age 50
  • Most occurring between 15-25 years of age
  • The body usually takes care of itself, but in 10-20% of cases it persists
  • It usually takes 20-25 yrs for an HPV infection to cause cervical cancer
What is HPV Vaccine?
  • The HPV vaccine helps keep people from getting infected with HPV
  • It may also prevent mouth, throat, penile and anal cancers, but it’s not 100%.
  • It does not prevent any other types of sexually transmitted infections
  • The vaccine does not cure HPV
Who should get the vaccine?
It is recommended boys and girls get the vaccine between ages 9-26
  • People 15yr or older should get 3 vaccines over 6 months
  • People under 15yrs should get 2 vaccines 6 months apart
    • The vaccine works best before a person becomes infected therefore it is best when given before they become sexually active
    • Talk to your provider, as they may still recommend the vaccine even if you are already sexually active. It may still help you.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
  1.  It can cause redness, swelling or soreness at the site of the injection.
  2.  In rare cases, it can cause the person to pass out.
Do I still need a Pap smear if I get the vaccination?
  • Women need to start getting pap smears at 21 yrs of age to test for cervical changes and HPV.
  • Depending on your results, you may need to have a pap smear every 1-3 yrs
  • There is no test for HPV in the throat, anus, or penis.
What are the signs and symptoms of HPV?
  • Most people infected with HPV have no signs or symptoms and usually never develop any problems from it.
  • There are more than 100 types of HPV identified, 40 infect the cervix and 15 that can cause cervical cancer. HPV types are classified at high risk and low risk

Important: Follow your provider’s recommendations for regular check-ups.

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