10 Things to Know about HPV

Educate yourself in honor of Cervical Health Awareness Month

Since January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, at Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, we encourage you to learn more and make a difference by sharing the facts.

Take a few minutes to see what you already know about Human papillomavirus (HPV): a common sexually transmitted disease that, if untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. You may find that there are aspects of cervical health you could still learn more about:

1. HPV is a fact of life

HPV is such a common infection that, at some point in their lives, most individuals who are sexually active will contract it. At any time nearly 80 million Americans have the virus—which is temporary if caught in time. In the U.S., 14 million people are diagnosed with HPV infections each year.

2. HPV is easy to get.

Since HPV is usually sexually transmitted, condoms can reduce a woman’s chance of contracting HPV.

3. Not all kinds of HPV lead to cervical cancer.

Some types of HPV are linked to changes in the cells of a woman’s cervix. If a doctor does not detect these cells early, through routine pap smears, they can increase a woman’s risk for developing cervical cancer.

4. Many diseases that HPV causes are treatable.

Right now there is no treatment for the HPV virus, although the body often naturally clears the virus within a year or two. However, there are many ways to treat diseases that HPV causes, such as genital warts.

5. You can test for HPV.

HPV causes changes to the cervix that a routine Pap test will detect. These tests, recommended for women 30 and over, also help healthcare providers to know which women are at highest risk for cervical cancer.

6. HPV can take a long time to diagnose.

It can be hard to know from whom a person may have contracted HPV, since the virus may not have any symptoms for years after the person was exposed to it.

7. There’s an HPV vaccine.

HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high-risk HPV (that can lead to cervical cancer) and low-risk types of the infection (that cause genital warts). According to the CDC, all 11 or 12 years olds should receive the vaccine, at an age when it produces a strong immune response. It’s available until 26, but if you get it before age 15, it is a series of only two doses instead of three.

8. HPV doesn’t pose significant risks to pregnant women.

It’s rare for a woman with HPV to pass the virus on to her child.

9. Try to keep your emotions in check.

Even though it’s very common, first finding out that you HPV can be upsetting. But having the virus doesn’t necessarily mean that you or one of your partners did anything wrong—but only that they were exposed to a common infection.

10. You can get support.

There are online support communities, such as the ones run through the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and the American Sexual Health Association you can access at inspire.com.

Since prevention is the best medicine, we also encourage you to find free/low cost Pap tests in your area. You can also spread the word on social media by making sure your friends know the facts.

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