(CMR) The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, but it is one that people often do not know enough about. Many people do not know how it is transmitted or what getting the infection means for them.
According to Everyday Health, here are seven common myths about HPV and the facts to set them straight.
Myth 1: Only Women can get HPV
Fact Men get HPV, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Any person who has close, skin-to-skin contact with another person who has an HPV infection can get the infection, too.
Myth 2: All strains of HPV cause cancer
Fact Not all HPV strains can cause cancer. The human papillomavirus is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some of those strains cause skin warts, some cause genital warts, and some can cause precancerous changes in cells that can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and oropharynx — the back and sides of the throat, tonsils, and base of the tongue.
The HPV strains that cause cancer are called high-risk HPV. Types 16 and 18, in particular, raise the risk of cervical cancer and genital cancers in men and women. Type 16 also causes the majority of cases of oropharyngeal cancer. But according to the National Cancer Institute, even most high-risk HPV infections go away within one to two years and do not cause cancer.
When a high-risk type of HPV does persist, it can take years to decades for cancer to develop, which is why women are advised to get screened for cervical cancer every three to five years, depending on the method of screening used, from age 21 through age 65 and possibly beyond that.
Myth 3: If you don't have sex, you won't get HPV
Fact HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, so you don’t have to have sexual intercourse to get HPV. Using condoms can lower your risk of contracting HPV, but you can still contract the virus if it’s present in skin not covered by a condom.
Myth 4: Men can get screened for HPV
Fact There are no FDA-approved tests to screen for HPV in men. For women, there is a test that can detect HPV in cervical cells. Women can also get a Pap smear to check for cancerous or precancerous changes in cervical cells.
Myth 5: There are treatment options available for HPV
Fact Although healthcare professionals can treat precancerous lesions, cancers, and genital warts that are caused by HPV infections, there’s no treatment available for the virus itself.
Myth 6: People with HPV always have symptoms
Fact Most people who have HPV do not develop any symptoms. Although many potential health problems are associated with HPV, including genital warts and cervical cancer, most people don’t develop health problems from an HPV infection.
Myth 7: I got the HPV vaccine so I don't need a Pap Test
Fact Even if you get the HPV vaccine, you still need to get regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. That’s because the HPV vaccines don’t protect against all the HPV types that can cause cancer. A woman may also have been infected with a cancer-causing strain of HPV before getting the vaccine, in which case it won’t protect her against that particular strain.