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Five Fast Facts About Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that’s transmitted through sexual contact, and affects 80% of sexually active adults in their lifetime. While the virus can cause significant health complications, there are also several effective options to prevent, detect and treat it.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Human Papillomavirus.

1) HPV Is The Most Common Sexually-Transmitted Infection (STI) in The World.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 80 million people in the U.S. are currently infected with HPV, and there are 14 million new infections diagnosed every year.  While many people think gonorrhea or chlamydia are the most common STI’s, in fact, the most common STI in the world is HPV.

2) HPV Can Cause Genital Warts And Several Cancers.

HPV can cause several significant health issues for patients if left untreated. It’s responsible for genital warts, (scaly growths that can continue to replicate and spread to sexual partners unless they’re treated appropriately.)

And every year, more than 19,000 women and 12,000 men contract cancers caused by HPV, including cancers of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth and throat.

3) HPV Infections Can Often Be Prevented.

The good news is that a vaccine called Gardasil is available to prevent HPV infections. The newest version of Gardasil, which has been the only HPV vaccine in use in the U.S. since 2017, vaccinates patients against nine strains of HPV, which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases. Using condoms can also decrease the risk of contracting HPV.

4) Women Should Be Regularly Screened for HPV.

The Pap smear, which detects HPV-related changes in cervical cells that can lead to cervical cancer, is the recommended HPV screening test for women. There’s also an anal Pap test for men who receive penetrative anal sex, which screens for early signs of anal cancer.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women ages 21-29 have a Pap test every 3 years, and women ages 30-65 have a Pap test with HPV testing every 5 years.  Women with an abnormal Pap test or certain risk factors may need more frequent screening.

Men who receive anal sex are recommended to have an anal Pap test every 1-2 years, depending on their sexual activity and risk factors.

5) HPV Infections Are Often Treatable (And Sometimes Curable).

Many cases of HPV resolve spontaneously because the body’s immune system can often eradicate the virus on its own. In cases of symptomatic HPV infections, such as genital warts or cervical cell changes, there are many effective options that can treat - or even cure - the infection, especially if it’s detected early.

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