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Cervical Cancer

Better health is always a popular New Year’s resolutions. One of the best ways to start on this goal is by getting good health information.

January is Cervical Health Awareness month. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a serious threat for cervical cancer. Currently, 79 million Americans are infected with this virus and more than 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, making HPV a health concern we should learn more about.

What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus, or HPV for short, refers to a category of 150 related viruses that infect people. Most strains produce no symptoms, while others merely cause harmless warts. However, the most serious types of HPV can lead to cancer, particularly of the cervix. The HPV viruses survive only in the cells on the skins surface and mucous membranes. They are commonly found in and around the male and female genitals and in the linings of the mouth, nose, throat and eyelids.

Who is at risk?

HPV is passed from person to person through by having vaginal, anal or oral sex. The virus can be transmitted even if the person who has it does not show any symptoms.

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting HPV, even if you’ve only had one sexual partner. Symptoms can develop years after contact with an infected person, so it’s sometimes hard to know when you first got the virus. In most cases, people with HPV never know they have it.

Since the body is often able to fight off the virus, it never causes health problems for many people. The first indication that you have the virus may be the discovery of genital warts. Women who get routine Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer may find out through that test. In rarer cases, the virus is detected only after a person develops cancer or other serious HPV related problem.


How is HPV Prevented?

While there is no routine screening test for HPV-associated diseases (other than cervical cancer), you should visit your doctor for regular checkups. In addition, the American Cancer Society and the CDC strongly recommend getting vaccinated against HPV. The vaccine is only given during a particular age range. All boys and girls can be vaccinated at ages 11 – 12 until the age of 21 for males and the age of 26 for females.

Although the vaccine doesn’t protect against all HPV strains, it does protect against the 2 types that are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer, 70% of vaginal cancer, and up to 50% of vulvar cancer. It also helps protect against 80% of anal cancer and 90% of genital warts in both males and females.

For more information about HPV and HPV prevention contact your doctor or learn more from A.D.A.M.'s Health Information Encyclopedia located within our SmartEngage product. If you are interested in licensing our content, please contact us.

If you would like to know more about this Health Tip, Ask A Doctor

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