July 20, 2022

Glossary: Human papillomavirus (HPV)

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What is Human papilloma virus?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 200 viruses that can cause warts and certain types of cancer. HPV is a common virus spread through direct sexual contact, most people are infected with the virus shortly after they become sexually active. HPV is commonly associated with cervical cancer, but it also plays a role in anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancer (NIH). According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 infections go away within 2 years. Some HPV infections can stay dormant within the body for years and even cause cancer.

Prevention and Screening

HPV vaccinations are recommended for all people aged 11-26. Most doctors begin recommending the vaccine for children aged 11 or 12 as early vaccinations reduce the risk of virus exposure and thus the development of cancer later in life (CDC). At this time there are two different cervical cancer screenings: Pap smear and HPV test. During a pap smear, cells are collected from the cervix to test for cervical cancer. Pap smears are recommended every 3 years for women aged 21-29.  An HPV test is a high risk HPV test usually recommended if pap smear results are abnormal or the patient is age 30 or older (NIH).  

GENERAL DISCLAIMER: It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

-Written by Sabrina Park MPH

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  1. […] experts suggest that women begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21. If the Pap smear or HPV test detects abnormal results, an OB/GYN will suggest additional lab testing to rule out cervical […]

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