Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is America’s most common sexually transmitted infection, with approximately 20 million Americans currently infected with the virus.
Most cases of HPV resolve themselves, but some strains of the virus can lead to much more serious problems, such as cancer of the cervix. In fact, it is estimated that HPV causes half a million new cases of cervical cancer and 275,000 deaths due to cervical cancer worldwide every year.
You can protect yourself from the four most damaging strains of the virus through HPV vaccination. Using condoms and regular screening can further protect you from the virus and its associated cancer risks.
This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, here are our top myths about Human Papillomavirus:
1. An abnormal Pap result means you have HPV
Pap tests allow doctors to identify irregular cell behaviour before cancer develops. However, an irregular Pap test result does not mean that you have the main cancer-causing strains of the virus, or that you have the HPV virus at all.
2. The HPV Vaccine means I don’t need Pap screening
Whilst the HPV vaccine protects against the main cancer-causing strains of the virus, it doesn’t completely protect against cervical cancer. Don’t allow the fact that you have been vaccinated make you think that you cannot develop cervical cancer, you should still be screened for the disease regularly.
3. HPV is a life-long Disease
Whilst some cases and strains of HPV can lead to serious conditions, 90% of the 6 million American cases diagnosed each year will be cleared up naturally by the body’s immune system.
4. HPV only affects females
It is true that the greatest known risk of the four main HPV strains is that, in a small percentage of cases, the virus can lead to cervical cancer. However, men are at risk too. It is emerging that the number of HPV-related cancers in men is growing, with the virus being linked to penile cancer and cancer of the mouth and throat.
5. The Vaccination is just for girls….
Whilst the main aim of the HPV vaccination is to prevent the development of cervical cancer, one of the FDA approved vaccinations, Gardasil, is also available to boys and men. By vaccinating males as well as females, we can prevent the spreading of the disease.
6. Vaccinating young adults will encourage promiscuity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all American girls and boys aged 11 and 12 are vaccinated against the HPV virus, although vaccinations can be completed up to the age of 26. Whilst many say that vaccination at such a young age encourages promiscuity, studies have shown that, compared with unvaccinated adolescents, vaccinated youths have no higher rates of STI, pregnancy or seeking contraception (an indication of intended sexual activity).
As it is estimated by the CDC that half of the current HPV infections are in people aged between 15 and 26 years of age, early vaccination is essential to prevent the spreading of the virus. If you want to know more about the HPV virus, how it can affect you and your family, or more about our alternative cancer treatment approach to cervical cancer, contact us today.