1_techName

Human papillomavirus


2_alsoCalled
HPV, warts, percy

4_whatAreSymptoms
Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. Health care providers can diagnose warts by looking at the genital area during an office visit. Warts can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner, even if the infected partner has no signs of genital warts. If left untreated, genital warts might go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size or number. They will not turn into cancer.

Cervical cancer usually does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced. For this reason, it is important for women to get regular screening (Pap Test) for cervical cancer. Screening tests can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early, before they ever turn into cancer.

Other HPV-related cancers might not have signs or symptoms until they are advanced and hard to treat. These include cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and head and neck. For signs and symptoms of these cancers, see www.cancer.gov.

howCommon
HPV (the virus). Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

Genital warts. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any one time. This doesn't mean only 1% of the millions of sexually active people have warts, it means only 1% have a wart showing.

Cervical cancer. Each year, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer in the U.S.

Other cancers that can be caused by HPV. These are less common than cervical cancer. Each year in the U.S., there are about:
  • 3,700 women who get vulvar cancer
  • 1,000 women who get vaginal cancer
  • 1,000 men who get penile cancer
  • 2,700 women and 1,700 men who get anal cancer
  • 2,300 women and 9,000 men who get head and neck cancers. [Note: Although HPV is associated with some of head and neck cancers, most of these cancers are related to smoking and heavy drinking.]


3_whatIsIt
Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is a virus and is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.

HPV is not the same as herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). These are all viruses that can be passed on during sex, but they cause different symptoms and health problems

HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed between straight and same-sex partners-even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.

A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.

Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery.

Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, the body's immune system clears HPV naturally within two years. In some people, certain types of HPV infection can lead to cancer. However, the types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer. There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.

risk
Any sexually active person is at risk for HPV. And, the more partners you have, the more likely you are to get HPV. Remember, there are over 40 different types of HPV and you can get more than one type. Also, if your first or only partner has had multiple partners, your risks are just as high as if you had multiple partners.

Certain populations are at higher risk for some HPV-related health problems; Men who have sex with men, and people with weak immune systems (including those who have HIV/AIDS).

prevention
There are several ways that people can lower their chances of getting HPV.

Vaccines can protect males and females against some of the most common types of HPV. These vaccines are given in three shots. It is important to get all three doses to get the best protection. The vaccines are most effective when given before a person's first sexual contact, when they could be exposed to HPV.

Vaccines for girls and women are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Cervical cancer can also be prevented with routine cervical cancer screening and follow-up of abnormal results. The Pap test can find abnormal cells on the cervix so that they can be removed before cancer develops. An HPV DNA test, which can find HPV on a woman's cervix, may also be used with a Pap test in certain cases.

Some vaccines also protect against most genital warts. Both vaccines are recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age, who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.

One available vaccine for boys and men, ages 9 through 26, protects against most of the types of HPV that cause genital warts.

For those who choose to be sexually active, condoms may lower the risk of HPV. To be most effective, they should be used with every sex act, from start to finish. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom - so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.

Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of HPV because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.

People can also lower their chances of getting HPV by being in a faithful relationship with one partner; limiting their number of sex partners; and choosing a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners. But even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV. And it may not be possible to determine if a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected. That's why the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.

For preventing anal, penile, head and neck cancer, there is no approved screening test to find early signs of these cancers. Some experts recommend yearly anal Pap tests to screen for anal cancer in gay and bisexual men and in HIV-positive persons. Also, tests are available by specialized doctors for persons with possible symptoms of these cancers.

If you get the vaccine, women still need regular cervical cancer screening (Pap Test) because the vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers.

treatment
There is no treatment for the virus itself, but there are treatments for the diseases that HPV can cause.

Visible genital warts can be removed by the patient with medications. They can also be treated by a health care provider. Some people choose not to treat warts, but to see if they disappear on their own. No one treatment is better than another.

Cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers are most treatable when they are diagnosed and treated early. Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops. Prevention is always better than treatment.

additional

Last Updated On January, 12, 2011