Myths and Facts About HPV

Human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, causes about 99% of cervical cancer, making it a serious concern. HPV is a complex and often misunderstood virus.

Myth: HPV is one virus

There are many — more than 100 — different strains of HPV. The vast majority are of no concern. A few types, however, are associated with cancer. These are called high-risk types, and they can cause cell abnormalities in your cervix.

Fact: At some point, most people get an HPV infection

Some 80% of sexually active adults will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives. Most of those infections are cleared by your body’s immune system, and you’re never even aware you had it. 

Myth: Only women get HPV

Both men and women can get HPV, and those high-risk types of the virus can cause cancer in men as well. Men and women can develop genital warts and oropharyngeal cancer — cancer in the throat, tonsils, and at the base of the tongue. Men are also susceptible to penile and anal cancers as a result of HPV. 

Fact: There’s no screening for HPV in men

Women are screened for HPV during pap tests, or pap smears — which is one reason it’s very important for you to have regular gynecological check-ups. There’s no similar test for men. 

Myth: You’ll know if you have HPV

HPV rarely causes symptoms. That’s the reason some 80% of people have HPV infections but never know it. This is another reason getting pap smears regularly is vitally important. 

Fact: HPV can lie dormant

You can have HPV for weeks, months, or even years without it ever developing into an infection. So, even if you’re in a stable, monogamous relationship, you or your partner could have HPV. 

Myth: Condoms prevent the spread of HPV

Although condoms can prevent the spread of many STIs, HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, and condoms don’t protect you from it. This doesn’t mean you should stop using condoms — but you should be aware that there’s still risk of getting HPV. 

Fact: Smoking increases your risk of HPV

Under most circumstances, your body’s immune system will clear an HPV infection. If you smoke, your immune system is not as strong, and your risk of an HPV infection that your body can’t clear is higher.

Myth: The HPV vaccine protects you from all HPV types

The HPV vaccine effectively protects you against most of the high-risk types of HPV, the ones most likely to cause cancer. However, it doesn’t offer complete protection, and you still need regular pap smears. 

If it’s time for your regular pap smear, or if you have questions about HPV, book an appointment at North Texas OB/GYN in Plano. Our providers are experts, and are happy to discuss your particular situation. Simply call our office between 8:15 and 5:00, Monday through Thursday, or between 8:15am and noon on Friday and we’ll get you scheduled. 

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