There has been a lot of information (and controversy) about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in the media, but not much about damage control once someone has HPV. What are those of us over the age of 26 (age limit for the vaccine for both men and women) to do? I went digging, ever so indignantly, for more information as I am a member of this “older” crowd.
Listed below are some important facts from the CDC website about HPV:
- At least 50% of sexually active men and women get HPV at some point in their lives, though most don’t know it because HPV usually has no signs or symptoms
- HPV can be contracted during all types of sexual intercourse: vaginal, anal, oral
- In 90% of cases, the immune system clears HPV naturally within 2 years
- HPV can surface years after sexual contact with the infected person (meaning, it may be unwarranted to accuse your current partner of any misdeeds)
- There are more than 40 types of HPV, and not all strains cause cancer
- Some types of HPV cause genital warts, but these are not the same types that cause cervical, vaginal, penile, or rectal cancer
- HPV is not Herpes
You may be thinking, “Will it ever be safe for me to have sex again?!”
On the prevention side, you can get the vaccine (recommended for ages 11-26), use condoms during all types of sexual intercourse, or never have sex. For those of us who have “aged-out” of vaccine range, women can prevent cervical cancer by getting regular Pap smears (typically once every 1-2 years). In addition to a Pap smear, there is a HPV test that can be done concurrently. If you have an abnormal Pap, and the doctor detects cell changes that may be due to HPV, a colposcopy commonly follows.
Although men are also at risk for penile and rectal cancer (albeit, at a much lower rate than cervical cancer in women), there is currently no recommended HPV test for men.
If this post has piqued your curiosity (or scared the sex drive out of you), please visit the following website for more information: