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Know your STDs and How to Prevent Them: HPV

It seems like there are several commercials running for the prevention of human papillomavirus (HPV) and that’s probably because it’s the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). According to the CDC, about 20 million Americans have HPV right now, and another 6 million will be effected this year. While there are several types of this viruses that float around, the important thing to know is that just like many other STDS, if you have HPV, you may never know. However this lack of awareness can prove to be very detrimental, and especially in the cases involving HPV.

Do You Have HPV?

If you have HPV, you probably don’t even realize it. The CDC says that in 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears it up naturally. But get this – it clears it up within TWO YEARS. Yep, for two years you could be fighting off a sexually transmitted infection.

But here’s the thing about HPV:  if the body doesn’t clear it up naturally, life-threatening consequences can come later. Like what? Well…. let’s just say here are what some have experienced:

  • Genital and oral warts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Other cancers near the lower genital region in both men & women

Seriously, an STD can give me CANCER?!?

Yep, an STD can give you cancer. Now there are several strains of HPV, and not all of them are the cancer-causing agents. Some of them just cause the warts. However, you can’t really know which type of strain you have and that’s why it’s extremely important for you to get checked:

  • STD testing – if you’re sexually active (especially with multiple partners), you need tested for STDs each year.
  • Routine cervical exams (for women) – this will test you for cervical cancer. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV virus.
  • Routine physicals (for men) – the doctor will examine if you have any signs of STD complications from warts to cancer

The HPV virus mutates cells. Just like any other cancer, you cannot physically feel this taking place, and it’s a slow process. However, when HPV goes undetected and isn’t fought off naturally, that’s when this devastation can occur. It might be years later, but if you’ve picked up the HPV virus and your body didn’t fight it off naturally, you will be at risk for cancers.

How do I Prevent & Treat HPV?

HPV is actually a very unique STD in that it has a vaccine for prevention. While abstaining from sexual relations will be the best way prevent it, some of these tools will also help:

  • Vaccines – there’s a vaccine for women & girls (ideally given around ages 11-12) that can prevent cervical cancer, other reproductive-area cancers and warts. There’s also a vaccine for men & boys that can prevent the warts and anal cancers caused from HPV.
  • Condoms – The use of condoms is said to help stop the spread of HPV – as long as they are used during the entire sexual encounter.
  • Medicines – If you’re suffering from the genital warts, there are some medications a doctor can prescribe to help clear them up.

Learn More about HPV

This is just scratching the surface when it comes to HPV and your risks. Learn more at some of these trusted sites:

Center for Disease Control: Genital HPV Infection

PubMed Health: Genital Warts

National Cancer Institute: HPV and Cancer

 

 

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