HPV stands for human papillomavirus—-a sexually transmitted infection that almost every woman will get at some point in her life. Certain types of HPV can cause harmful cell changes in a woman’s cervix. If these cell changes are not treated, cervical cancer may develop.
2. If I have HPV, will I definitely get cervical cancer? No!
Although most women will get HPV at least once during their lives, few women will get cervical cancer. Most women’s bodies will fight off the virus before it causes any problems.You have a greater chance of developing cervical cancer if you have HPV for many years because your body has not fought off the virus.
Most people who are infected with HPV do not have any symptoms. Some types of HPV cause vaginal warts and other types cause cancer; the types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer usually do not cause symptoms. Many women feel fine even when they have cell changes in their cervix or early stages of cervical cancer.
4. You should not feel ashamed if you have HPV.
HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, about3 of every 4 adults will have had HPV at some time in their lives.
5. How do I know if I have HPV?
The only way to know for certain whether you have HPV is to ask your health care provider for an HPV test in addition to a Pap test. If you are30 or older, you must insist on that HPV test. Though finding HPV early won’t get rid of the virus, knowing if you have HPV let’s you work with your health care provider to keep your cervix healthy.
6. HPV vaccines are most effective when given to girls and young women who are not yet sexually active.
The HPV vaccines are recommended for girls 11 and 12 years old,and are approved for girls and young women up to age 26.
7. Can I prevent HPV?
Condoms may give you some protection. But because HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, “safe sex” can’t fully protect you from HPV. Only abstinence can do that.
Speak with your health care provider about what cervical cancer prevention methods are right for you and how often to get screened. Remember, cervical cancer is preventable!