How do you get HPV and what steps should you take if you receive a HPV diagnosis? LetsGetChecked is here to tell you everything you need to know.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is the cause of 99% of all cervical cancers.
- What Is HPV?
- How Do You Get HPV?
- The Facts: Everything You Need To Know
- HPV & Cervical Cancer
- Can HPV Be Avoided?
- Are There Any Treatments For HPV?
- HPV Testing For Women
What Is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) worldwide and is responsible for 530,000 cases of cervical cancer each year. There are over 40 strains of the virus that infect the genitals, mouth and throat.
More than 50% of sexually active women will get HPV at some point in their lives. Women are the most adversely affected with 290 million currently infected. An estimated 275,000 cervical cancer deaths occur each year.
How Do You Get HPV?
HPV is contracted 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 may be passed on between straight and same sex partners, even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
Most cases of HPV infection cause no visible symptoms, however if left untreated long term consequences can occur including cervical cancers, genital warts, other HPV related cancers and Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP).
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. Warts can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner—even if the infected partner has no sign of genital warts. It is estimated that 90% of genital warts are caused by two strains of the virus, type 6 and type 11.
The Facts:Everything You Need To Know
- There are over 100 strains of the virus (40 that are spread by sexual contact).
- Most sexually active people will be exposed to HPV of some form, in their lifetime.
- HPV 6 AND HPV 11 are responsible for 90% of cases of genital warts.
- High risk strains HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause over 70% of all cervical cancers.
Thankfully, for the majority of us, the strain will be harmless and the immune system will clear it. For others, the virus will persist, leaving them open to the nastier side of HPV and health problems such as genital warts and cancer.
While definitely inconvenient and somewhat unpleasant, genital warts are relatively harmless and can be treated, meaning these strains are considered low risk. High risk strains HPV 16 and HPV 18 however, cause over 70% of all cervical cancers. When infection occurs with high risk strains there are usually no symptoms. A persistent infection with a high-risk HPV type can lead to cell changes that, if untreated, may progress to cancer.
HPV & Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is generally symptom-less until the cancer is advanced. If there are symptoms, women can expect very subtle signs such as bleeding between periods.
By the time cancer has advanced, it can be very serious and hard to treat. For this reason, it is important for women to get screened regularly for HPV. Screening tests can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early, before they develop into cancer. Almost all cervical cancers are linked to the HPV virus. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for over 70% of the cervical cancers.
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, anus, and oropharynx (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils). It is estimated that 95% of anal cancers are linked to HPV.
Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP) causes warts to grow in the throat. It can sometimes block the airway, causing a hoarse voice or troubled breathing. Although rare, RRP can occur among adults and children.
Can HPV Be Avoided?
There is no cure for HPV and so prevention remains the number one defence against the infection. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is also a good way to avoid contracting HPV. Using condoms every-time reduces the risk of contracting STIs, however, HPV may still be transmitted in areas not covered by condoms, therefore, using a condom is not 100% effective.
You can contract it from oral sex and even from an innocent kiss, as recent studies have suggested The likelihood of contracting HPV via a kiss is higher if you are a smoker.
Are There Any Treatments For HPV?
There is a vaccine for HPV. It protects against these high risk strains and that’s essential for younger generation of girls that are eligible to receive it. Hopefully in a few years, worrying about HPV infections will be a distant memory and cervical cancer will be less of a threat to women’s well-being. But for us ladies who missed that boat, regular screening is an absolute must.
HPV Testing For Women
Regular testing for HPV allows women to take control of their health and maintain peace of mind. While we have an established cervical screening program for women over 25, it doesn’t test for HPV unless there are abnormalities already present on your pap smear.
LetsGetChecked offer A HPV kit for women that tests for HPV types 16 and 18 individually, as well as 12 other high risk types of the virus collectively. This home HPV test allows women to safeguard their health conveniently and discreetly. While the test can’t tell if you will develop cervical cancer it will let you know if you are at risk so that you can be pro-active and try to catch anything early, before it develops.
All of this information may have been a little overwhelming! Chances are you had probably heard of HPV, but maybe you weren’t aware of the threat it can pose to your health as a woman. It’s empowering really, that by taking a regular HPV test for women, we could potentially stop cervical cancer before it even begins to develop! Regular testing allows us to get the reassurance and peace of mind we deserve, all from the comfort of home.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley