You've probably heard the term "HPV" before, but have you heard about the HPV vaccine? The vaccine, first approved in the United States in 2006, is essential in preventing this common STI. Learn why the HPV vaccine is more important than ever.
What is HPV?
“Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC further reports that about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. HPV is transmitted via anal, vaginal, and oral sex with an infected person, and it may also spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person during sex.
While most people are able to clear the virus on their own, certain strains of HPV lead to cancer years after exposure. In fact, HPV-related cancers affect more than 30,000 Americans every year.
Common cancers that can be caused from HPV include:
- Cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women
- Penile cancer in men
- Throat and anal cancers in both sexes
HPV can also cause genital warts. Warts are a bump or a group of bumps located on the genital area and may be caused by 12 different HPV types. Warts aren’t dangerous and can easily be removed in the same way you would remove a hand or foot wart. Symptoms of genital warts may include pain, irritation, discomfort, or itching.
Who Should Get the Vaccine
The American Cancer Society recommends that girls and boys begin getting the vaccine series at age 11 or 12. The vaccine causes a better immune response at this age than during the teenage years. Children are also likely still seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations at this age.
For the HPV vaccine to be as effective as possible, it's important to get it before coming into contact with the virus. That’s why the vaccine is recommended for children before they become sexually active. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.
How to Prevent HPV
While there is currently no cure for HPV, it is a preventable disease. Below are several things you or your loved ones can do to lower the chances of getting HPV.
- Practice Safe Sex. Use condoms and/or dental dams every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Though condoms and dental dams are not as effective against HPV as they are against other STDs like chlamydia and HIV, safer sex can lower your chances of getting HPV.
- Get Vaccinated. The HPV vaccine can protect against a low-risk (genital warts) and high-risk (cancer) diagnosis. Schedule an appointment to have yourself or your child vaccinated.
- Get Screened. Preventative screenings such as a Pap Smear or HPV test are an essential part of being healthy, as they screen for abnormal cells and cancer. Screenings are not a diagnosis, so your provider will help with the next steps if test results show abnormalities.
Visit Metro OBGYN
Your gynecological health is important and screening for STIs is a great way to keep up on your well-being. Schedule an appointment with a provider at Metro OBGYN to learn more about the steps you can take to prevent contracting HPV.