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HPV/Cervical Cancer

HPV (human papillomavirus) is responsible for about 99% of cervical cancers, according to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.

“HPV” is actually a blanket term for over 150 types of viruses. Over 40 of them can be transmitted sexually and two in particular – types 16 and 18 – cause about 70% of cervical cancers. HPV infection can also cause genital warts and other types of cancer, such as penile, anal, and oral cancer.

The National Cancer Institute estimated that approximately 12,000 American women would be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010. Over 4,000 were expected to die of it.

Cervical cancer affects the cervix, the lower part of a woman’s uterus that connects to the vagina.

HPV infection is very common. In fact, by the time they’re 50, approximately 80% of women will have had some type of HPV infection. Men can also be infected.

In most cases, people with HPV infection have no symptoms and the infection goes away on its own within two years. But for some people, the infection doesn’t clear up by itself. This is called a persistent infection. Women with persistent HPV infections are more likely to develop abnormal cervical cells and/or cancer.

To check for abnormal cervical cells, women are encouraged to have regular Pap tests. HPV tests are also available.

Also, many doctors recommend that young girls and boys be vaccinated against certain forms of HPV before they become sexually active. Gardasil and Cerevix are two such vaccinations.