In the United States, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and affects most sexually active men and women at some time in their lives. The virus is spread during vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. However, intercourse isn’t necessary to become infected; any genital contact with someone who has HPV puts you at risk.
Initial HPV infections often occur in the late teens or early 20s, during the first few years of sexual activity. Most people are unaware they have the virus because the infection resolves on its own and does not cause health problems. For others, certain types of HPV infection can lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus or penis. Other HPV viruses cause genital warts in both men and women. Currently there is no way to predict which individuals will or won’t develop cancer and other HPV-related health problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that HPV causes about 26,800 new cases of cancer each year.
Symptoms of HPV
In most cases, the body’s immune system will fight off HPV before it produces symptoms. When they do occur, the most common symptom is the presence of warts in the genital area. Women may find out they have HPV during cervical cancer screening due to an abnormal test result. Symptoms can appear weeks, months or even years after infection with the virus. In cases of HPV associated with cervical and other cancers, there may be no warts and no other symptoms may be noticed.
The HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine can prevent the HPV infections that cause most related cancers. HPV vaccine protects against four major types of HPV: two types that cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancer and two types that cause an estimated 90% of genital warts. Research has demonstrated that the HPV vaccine is very effective and has helped to lower HPV infection rates in teen girls by 56% while also decreasing cases of genital warts caused by HPV infections in teens.
Get Vaccinated at RediClinic
CDC recommendations include three doses of HPV vaccine for boys and girls at age 11 or 12. Teens or young adults who did not get the shots or did not finish the series when they were younger should get it now. A back-to-school physical or school sports physical is the perfect time to talk to your clinician about the HPV vaccine. Walk into your nearest RediClinic today to get the vaccinations and care your child needs, without an appointment.