Although about 50% of adults have some form of the HPV virus sometime in their lives, most never know it. There are over 250 strains of the virus, and most of these do not cause any health problems, or cause only short-term issues, and do away on their own within a few years.
But the strains of HPV that do cause long-term health issues can be serious, and you do need to be informed about these in order to best protect yourself from certain forms of cancers and even infertility.
Some strains of HPV cause genital warts; these can be annoying, unsightly and even painful in both men and women; although they can be treated they often return time and again, so repeated treatment is necessary. It is believed that Types 6 and 11 of the human papillomavirus cause about 90% of all genital warts. These types do not normally lead to cancer.
Although it is uncommon, both men and women can acquire the types of HPV infection, through sexual contact, that cause various cancers. These include cervical, vulvular and vaginal cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both. There have also been cases of throat and mouth cancers that were related to the HPV virus being transmitted during oral sex.
Remember that the genital forms of HPV usually show no symptoms, so unless your sexual partner tells you, there is really no way to know it they have HPV. It is very likely that if your partner does have it, he or she does not know it. There is currently no medical test that tells whether you have HPV; the only way to know is when symptoms appear. In the case of those strains that are cancer-causing, those signs do not appear for years.
As is true with all sexually-transmitted diseases, the only 100% effective method for assuring that you never acquire the genital forms of HPV is abstinence; and for most adults that is not practical. Condoms do not offer complete protection, but they can greatly diminish your risk.
HPV-related health issues are a big reason why you should receive regular medical examinations. Women should receive pap tests – these are routine tests to check for changes in the cervical cells that may indicate precancerous or cancerous conditions. Cervical cancer, when caught early, is nearly always fully treatable. When neglected it can be deadly.
Gay and bisexual men are statistically at greater risk for types of anal and throat cancers that may be related to HPV infection. Some physicians are beginning to use the pap test to test these men for anal cancer during routine check-ups.
Arming yourself with the knowledge that HPV exists can protect you, by reminding you to get regular check-ups, to practice safe sex, and to limit the number of people with whom you have sexual contact. Although HPV exists, when the possibility of infection is handled with knowledge and self-care, any health problems can be caught before they become serious.
HPV Health is dedicated to bringing you the most current information on HPV.
By Michelle H Anderson