Myths and Facts About HPV

Are you a sexually active adult? If so, you’ve probably had HPV at some point in your life. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world.

According to the CDC, 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and 14 million more will become infected this year. That’s almost 30% of the total US population.

Despite HPV’s prevalence, there are still a lot of misconceptions. While you’re hopefully aware HPV can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, you may not know how to protect yourself. This blog will help clear up some of the most common myths about HPV.

If you think you have HPV or want to be tested for the virus, come see us at The Association for Women's Health Care. We’re a full-service OB/GYN that can help you navigate your entire women’s health journey. From birth control and pregnancy to menopause and beyond, you can rest easy knowing you’ll get the best care and treatment possible.

Myth: You can tell when you have HPV

There are over 200 types of HPV and less than half have the potential to cause symptoms. Even if you contract a strain that could cause symptoms, your body may be able to kill the virus before it ever has a chance to develop. 

About 60 strains of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet and 40 HPV strains cause genital warts. Genital warts, while contagious and itchy, are not dangerous and can be cured with a prescription ointment or oral medication. 

Overall, HPV usually goes away on its own and most people never know they have it. 

Myth: HPV causes cervical cancer

Yes, HPV has the potential to cause cervical cancer. That’s why we recommend you receive one of the approved vaccines. With that said, the vast majority of people with HPV will not develop cancer.

Before 30, the virus usually clears up without much fuss. After 30, you have to contact one of the virus strains that can cause cervical cancer, called high-risk HPV. Out of 200 total types, there are 12 high-risk strains, and only two, in particular, are linked to 70% of cancer cases.

When your body isn’t able to eliminate the virus, it integrates with your normal cells. This causes the cells to grow abnormally, and, when not treated, they progress to cancer. Routine screenings can help detect cervical cancer in its early stages when treatment is much easier.

Myth: HPV is nothing to worry about

This could not be further from the truth. The National Cancer Institute reports that high-risk HPV is responsible for three percent of all cancers in women and two percent of all cancers in men. Although cervical cancer has the highest probability of developing from HPV, the virus can also cause cancer in other parts of the body, including:

Unlike other STDs, HPV is not spread through bodily fluids like semen. Any type of skin-to-skin contact can spread the virus, including oral sex and other forms of non-penetrative sex. Still, HPV thrives in moist membranes around the anus and genitals. That’s why wearing a condom is your best form of protection.

A combination of HPV vaccines and regular screenings can help you prevent cervical cancer. At The Association for Women's Health Care, we’re ready to help you take control of your sexual health. Call or book an appointment at our Chicago or Northbrook office today. 

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