Is HPV a Type of Cancer?

HPV stands for the human papillomavirus, the name for a group of viruses that commonly occur in the skin. Many people have it without ever showing symptoms or developing any problems. HPV is not a type of cancer but it can cause abnormalities in cells which can lead to cancer. 

How do you get it?

There are more than 100 types of HPV and it is easy to catch through sexual contact. It can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact through the genitals, penetrative and oral sex or sharing sex toys. 

HPV is something most people will get at some point in their life and you don't need to have been intimate with a number of people to contract it.  

What happens if you have HPV?

For most people who have HPV it will not cause any issues. However, it can lead to complications such as: 

  • Genital warts 
  • Abnormal changes in your cells which can lead to cancer 

Some types of HPV are known as high-risk and are linked to the development of: 

  • Cervical cancer 
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Cancer of the vulva 
  • Anal cancer
  • Cancer of the penis 
  • Some forms of head and neck cancer 

How can you prevent it? 

Young teenagers can get the HPV vaccine through their school to prevent getting high-risk types of HPV which cause cervical cancer. Using condoms can also help but they will not fully protect you from catching HPV as they do not provide a barrier between skin to skin contact. 

How do I know if I have HPV? 

It's likely you won't know if you have HPV and in the majority of cases, the virus is cleared by your body after 2 years anyway. Having genital warts is one visible sign of HPV. Women aged over 25 are invited to have a cervical screening every 3 years. This identifies any abnormalities in the cells in order to detect signs of cervical cancer early. If you're worried and unclear if you may be infected then order our HPV Home Test Kit to be sure.

How is HPV treated? 

HPV isn't something that can be treated. Most forms of the virus are naturally cleared by your body within 2 years and do not cause issues. If you have genital warts or abnormalities in the cervix then you will need treatment. 

Cell abnormalities in the cervix  

After having a smear test, if you are found to have abnormalities in your cervical cells then you may need to have treatment to remove these cells to ensure they do not grow further and develop into cancer. This might involve a colposcopy or loop excision (LLETZ). This is a procedure where a small wire loop is used to remove cells with an electrical current. 

Genital warts

Genital warts resemble small lumps around your genitals or anus. A doctor or nurse can diagnose this and can prescribe you with treatment. You'll be given a cream in the first instance but if this has no effect they can be frozen or surgically removed.  

Sources: 

NHS > Human Papilloma virus (HPV)
NHS > Genital Warts
NHS > Colposcopy

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