Posted: October 8, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY

The Importance of Knowing Your HPV Risk

While HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. it is often overlooked when it comes to screening. If you are getting a blood test for STDs, you might be surprised to find out that you could still be at risk for HPV.  This is in part due to the fact that currently there is no specific test to check for your HPV status, so to speak. You can, however, undergo HPV tests used to screen for cervical cancer. The current average of those infected with HPV in the U.S. is about 79 million. Roughly 14 million new infections occur each year.

So What is HPV?

HPV is often immediately met with fear due to it’s closeness in name to HIV. The two are in NO way the same. It is also not related to HSV which is the herpes virus. Essentially, HPV is actually so common that almost all sexually active men and women will have it at some point in their lives (according to the CDC). There is not one particular type of HPV so while some people with it may experience health effects, others won’t. The most common health conditions associated with HPV are genital warts and cancers.

So If I Have HPV, Does this Mean I Will Get Cancer?

Being diagnosed with anything outside of the norm can be really scary (especially if you start looking up any condition on the internet) but if you have HPV, this doesn’t mean you need to freak out. Your diagnosis simply means you will need to keep an eye out for any symptoms or changes and may need additional pap smears.

In most cases, HPV will actually go away on it’s own without causing any damage. When the virus lingers, however, this is when health problems can begin.

How Can You Get HPV? 

Just like other STIs, HPV is passed from one partner to another during sexual intercourse. Your partner doesn’t need to be exhibiting any symptoms in order to pass the virus along. It can be challenging to know when you were infected (or by whom) because symptoms can develop years after the initial infection.

So What’s the Connection Between HPV and Cancer?

HPV can cause cervical (and other types of) cancer. The most common HPV related cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. In some cases, it can also be related to cancer of the back of the throat, base of the tongue or the tonsils.

Should I Get the HPV Vaccine? 

It’s currently recommended that all boys and girl 11 to 12 years of age should get vaccinated. Because the HPV vaccine is relatively new, those who did not have access at that age may be given a catch-up vaccine for males through the age of 21 and women through the age of 26.