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Top HPV Myths

By EmpowHER September 1, 2013 - 12:00am
HPV Myths Auremar/PhotoSpin

Human papillomavirus or HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer and the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, has no doubt earned its share of media attention. Quiz yourself, do you know what is fact and what is fiction?

  1. Myth: Only Promiscuous Women Get HPV
    Fact: Any woman who has had sex can have HPV.
    Many people believe that only promiscuous women get HPV. But the truth is that any woman who has had sex, even with just one partner, could have been exposed to HPV. That’s because HPV is a very common virus. In fact, about eight out of 10 women will have had HPV at some point in time by the age of 50.1
  2. Myth: Men Don't Have to Worry About HPV
    Fact: Men are just as likely to contract HPV as women. But, there is no diagnostic test that can accurately determine whether a man is carrying an HPV infection.
  3. Myth: If you have HPV, you will probably get cervical cancer.
    Fact: HPV is very common. But cervical cancer is not.
    The truth is that having HPV does not mean you have or will get cervical cancer. Most women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives, and for most women, HPV infections will go away on their own without causing any problems.
  4. Myth: Women with HPV will experience warning symptoms.
    Fact: HPV infections usually do not cause any symptoms.
    Many women think that if they don’t have warning signs, they certainly could not have HPV or cervical cancer. This is not true! Although some “low risk” types of HPV can cause genital warts, the “high-risk” types that are associated with cervical cancer often go completely undetected – that is, until abnormal cells develop. That's why routine screening with Pap and HPV testing is so important if you are 30 or older.
  5. Myth: If a woman gets the HPV vaccine, she no longer needs the Pap or HPV test.
    Fact: Girls and women who get the HPV vaccine will still need to be tested with the Pap test and HPV test. The HPV vaccine is great news, but it only protects against two of the more than a dozen types of cancer-causing HPV types. Even then, vaccination is only fully effective when given to women who have not yet been exposed to the targeted types of HPV. That means the ideal candidate for the vaccine is an adolescent girl or young woman who is not yet sexually active. The bottom line: All women, including those who are vaccinated, need regular screening with a Pap and (if they are age 30 or older) an HPV test. To locate a health care provider in your community who uses the Pap + HPV testing as their standard for cervical cancer screening, visit the Qiagen Clinician Finder.
  6. Myth: If you use a condom, you won't get HPV.
    Fact: Condoms can protect you from many STDs, but do not provide complete protection against HPV. The virus can spread through skin-to-skin contact with infected areas of the skin not covered by the condom.
  7. Myth: You Can't Get HPV through Oral Sex
    Fact: There are several strains of HPV that can be transmitted from one person to another. HPV is most commonly associated with genital warts, cervical abnormalities - however there is evidence of other HPV-related cancers, such as oral cancer. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests there has been a surge in HPV-associated oral cancers, with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers rising 225 percent between 1988 and 2004.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

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