HPV, also known as the human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually
transmitted infection. HPV is passed on through direct skin-to-skin
contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. There are more than 40 types
of HPV that can infect both males and females. Some of these types can
cause genital warts, while the more serious types of HPV can cause cancer.
In the more serious types of HPV, normal cells become abnormal and begin
to reproduce at a higher rate, which can lead to cancer. HPV does not
differentiate between straight or same-sex partners, and even when the
person shows no signs or symptoms of HPV, the virus can be passed from
one person to another.
Mary Washington Healthcare Regional Cancer Center urges you to know this information and discuss it with your children,
because the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it.
HPV and Cancer
Cancer is a disease in which cells within the body begin to grow uncontrollably.
Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, which is the lower end of the uterus.
When cervical cancer is found early, it is a highly treatable disease
that is associated with a long survival and a good quality of life. In
addition to cervical cancer, HPV has been associated with some head and
neck cancers. Spread through oral sex or even open-mouth kissing, most
head and neck cancers that happen as a result of HPV occur in the throat
and on the tongue.
HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for the majority of HPV-caused cancers
and account for approximately 5 percent of cancers worldwide. However,
some forms of HPV do not cause cancer. HPV types 6 and 11 cause 90 percent
of genital warts and are non-cancer-causing. It is good to know, however,
that HPV can be prevented; research has shown that correct and consistent
use of condoms during intercourse can reduce the transmission of HPV between
Vaccines to prevent HPV in both boys and girls have been approved by the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent years and are known as Gardisil
Gardisil is used for the prevention of cervical, anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancer,
as well as precancerous lesions and genital warts. Gardisil helps to prevent
four different types of cancer in young men and women ages 9-26. Gardisil
is given as a series of three injections over a period of six months.
It is important to note that Gardisil does not prevent all types of cervical
cancer, and it is still important for women to have routine cervical screenings
in order to detect any cancer in its earliest form. The best time to vaccinate
is before any exposure to HPV.
Cervarix can help you protect yourself from certain kinds of HPV that cause
most cases of cervical cancer— HPV 16 and 18. TheCervarix vaccine helps prevent HPV by producing antibodies that help fight against
the most common types of cervical cancer. While the duration of protection
is still being researched, sustained protection has been observed for
up to 8.4 years after the first dose. Cervarix is primarily for young
girls and women ages 9-25. Even if you are infected with one of the most
common high-risk HPV types (16 and 18), Cervarix can help protect against
the other type as well as provide protection for re-exposure once the
infection clears. Cervarix is also given in three doses over the course
of six months. Just as with Gardisil, it is important that you receive
all three doses and continue to receive routine screenings to detect cervical cancer.
HPV vaccines are commonly encouraged by pediatricians and public health
clinics, and they are covered by most insurances. Talk to your physician
or pediatrician about HPV vaccinations.