How much do you know about human papillomavirus (HPV)? There are 150 different strains of this virus, 40 of which can be sexually transmitted. HPV is highly communicable, easy to contract and spread. The CDC estimates that 80 million Americans are currently infected, and 14 million people become infected each year.
HPV does not conform to the typical notion of ‘sexually transmitted,’ as it can be spread through simple skin-to-skin contact between areas that are not protected by a condom or another prophylactic. HPV contagion often goes unnoticed because many people remain asymptomatic for long periods of time and unknowingly spread the virus.
The virus commonly causes genital warts, which present as a small bump or cluster of bumps in the genital region. The more serious health risk posed by HPV, however, is that it increases the risk of several different types of cancer.
In women, HPV is associated with increased risk of cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancers, and in men an increased risk of penile cancer. For both males and females, HPV can lead to anal and oropharyngeal cancers (cancer of the tongue, tonsils, and throat).
It can take years or even decades for HPV-related cancers to develop. These types of cancers are often difficult to detect in early stages, and so are life-threatening more often than not.
The good news is that there are now three FDA-approved vaccines to prevent HPV. You’ve probably heard of the most commonly used HPV vaccine, GARDASIL,® as their wide-spread One Less campaign has successfully raised awareness.
The original GARDASIL protected against four types of HPV virus, while GARDASIL 9 (the one currently being given to patients) protects against nine types. Both are effective in preventing genital warts and reducing risk of cervical cancer by up to 70 percent.
Most people may have the notion that the HPV vaccine is primarily for girls or young women, but it may come as a surprise to learn that it is equally important to immunize boys and young men.
Clinical studies have shown that the spread of the virus is greatly reduced when males are vaccinated, and the incidence of male genital and oropharyngeal cancers is also reduced. Ideally, members of both genders will be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the virus.
HPV vaccines were proven to prevent HPV close to 100 percent of the time when administered before exposure, meaning there is virtually zero chance of contracting or spreading genital warts or an increased risks for those certain kinds of cancers. HPV vaccines are extremely effective, for both males and females.
At Family Care of Kent, our knowledgeable and compassionate nurse practitioners can guide you and your family through all your HPV and other STD testing and treatment needs. Our distinguished nurse practitioners, including Bob Smithing, can answer all your questions and administer HPV and other vaccines on-site.
Bob has been practicing since 1981 and has received many awards for his outstanding care throughout his career. With special interests in teen health and women’s health, Bob enjoys working with patients of all ages to offer treatment as well as prevention education. He believes everyone deserves respect and the highest quality of care.
Call or request an appointment online for the HPV vaccine with Bob today.