HPV or Human papillomavirus is the name given to a very common group of viruses. In the majority of people they cause no issues, but in some cases can lead to genital warts or cancer.
HPV is usually caught through having vaginal or anal sex with an infected person. Because HPV is so common - most people get infected at some point in their life.
You can also catch HPV from sharing sex toys or any skin contact of the genital area.
HPV doesn’t have any symptoms, so you may not even know that you have it.
Some types of Human papillomavirus (HPV) cause gential warts.
It does not cause cervical cancer in all cases. Although it does increase the risk of developing cervical cancer - It does this by causing abnormal changes in the cells.
Cancers linked to HPV include:
- vaginal cancer
- cancer of the penis
- vulvar cancer
- cervical cancer
- anal cancer
- some types of head and neck cancer
An infected person can have HPV for many years without it causing any issues.
There is no blood test for human papillomavirus (HPV), HPV testing is done as part of cervical screening - a small sample of cells is taken and tested for HPV.
Anal screening may be offered to some men who have a higher risk of developing anal cancer.
There is no treatment available for HPV. Most cases of HPV do not cause any problems and disappear within 2 years. If HPV causes problems such as genital warts or abnormal changes to cervical cells then treatment is needed.
You should get regular smear tests in order to detect any changes that could lead to cervical cancer.
It is not possible to fully protect yourself against HPV, but you can do things to lower the risk of catching it:
If the virus is present around the genitals in an area not protected by a condom then the passing of the infection can still occur, for this reason condoms can not guarantee that you will not catch HPV from an infected person.
Get the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine does not protect against all forms of HPV, however it will protect against most types of HPV that cause gential warts and cervical cancer.