HPV can cause cervical cancer, issues for women, men

| January 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

BethAnn Cameron
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)

USAPHC

USAPHC

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, or STI.

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and in the U.S., about 12,000 women get cervical cancer per year, and about 4,000 deaths occur each year.

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and understanding this STI can help save lives, as well as prevent other non-life-threatening conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another six million new people become infected each year.

More than 40 different types of HPV can infect the genital areas of both males and females. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, cancers and other health problems, even when an infected partner has no symptoms. There is no way to know if a person who gets HPV will develop cancer or other health problems.

Most people with HPV usually have no symptoms or health problems from it, and they pass the virus on to a partner without knowing they have done so. In 90 percent of cases, the immune system clears HPV naturally within two years.

Signs and symptoms of HPV-related problems include genital warts and cervical cancer. Genital warts are a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. Usually, no symptoms warn of cervical cancer until abnormal bleeding occurs at an advanced stage.

Other health problems related to HPV include cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and head and neck. Cancers might not show signs until they are at an advanced stage and hard to treat.

People can lower their chances of getting HPV by using condoms, limiting their number of sex partners, practicing abstinence or taking the HPV vaccine, as recommended by the CDC.

The vaccine works by preventing the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It is given as three shots. The vaccines work best when given before becoming sexually active.

Two vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, are available as protection against certain types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts.

The Cervarix vaccine was approved for women 10-25 years of age. Cervarix protects against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The Gardasil vaccine protects against the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It is available to males and females, 9-26 years of age.

The HPV vaccines have been made available by the Army for Soldiers and family members. Contact your local health care provider to find out which vaccine may be the right choice for you and your family members.

Because the vaccine does not prevent all types of cervical cancer or other sexually transmitted diseases, women should continue to get routine screenings for cervical cancer with the Pap smear and the HPV test.

To learn more about HPV, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm and www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html.

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Category: Community, Health

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