Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus is given a number, called its HPV type. HPV is named for warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause, while other HPV types can lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females.
HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.
While there is no treatment for HPV, our physicians at Mesa Women’s Health Care can treat the symptoms. They also offer an HPV vaccination.
HPV vaccines offer the best protection to girls who receive all three vaccine doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person. That’s why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years, though young women through age 26 and young men through age 21 can still get the vaccine.
HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over 6 months to protect against HPV infection and the health problems that HPV infection can cause. There are three HPV vaccines (Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9). Girls and young women should get any of these HPV vaccines to prevent cervical cancer.
Two of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Gardasil 9) also protects against genital warts and anal cancer in both females and males. Boys should get one of these HPV vaccines to prevent anal cancer and genital warts. Girls can get either of these vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
*Information adapted from The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.