It’s very likely you’ve already been exposed to the Human Papillomavirus (otherwise referred to as HPV), and don’t even realize it. According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, nearly all sexually active adults have been exposed to HPV, with as many as 20 million americans infected with the genital form of the virus, and up to 5.5 million new infections occurring each year. Now that is a lot of unprotected sex!
Fortunately HPV comes in many forms, and the majority of the strands live dormant within the body, show little to no symptoms, and pose no real health risks. On the other side of this, the rare forms that do effect the body nearly all result in cervical cancer. And that’s not all! In addition to cervical cancers, though extremely rare, HPV has shown the ability to cause cancers of the vulva, penis, head, neck, and anus.
This infection is called papillomavirus due to the fact that it tends to cause warts or papillomas (noncancerous) tumors. These will often show up on your hands, feet, or genitals. Though studies show that the strands of the virus that cause the hands and feet warts are different from those that cause the warts on your genitals.
With nearly 200 different types of HPV, there is much research needed to fully wrap our heads around every single one. Only about 40 types are said to be spread through sexual contact, and a handful associated with cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society states that, “more than 95% of the HPV viruses out there cause no symptoms or health problems.”
Prevention methods have been offered for several years now. Ceravix and Gardasil are the only FDA approved options to vaccinate against HPV. They are said to be 100% effective and safe, and work best if administered at ages 11-13. Gardasil specifically, is also 99% effective of protecting again HPV strains 6 and 11 which cause about 90% of genital wart cases. Be cognizant that these are preventative options, but cannot cure you if you’ve already contracted the virus. There currently is no cure.
The American Cancer Society predicted back in 2005 whopping 10,370 women or more would be effected, and 3,700 will die. With the push for prevention and the many outlets offering the vaccinations, these numbers have steadily decreased over time. Make sure you are going to have check-ups regularly, and that you are being the CEO of your health first!