HPV (Human papillomavirus)

Risks at a glance:

  • Genital warts
  • Cancer of the cervix
  • Cancer of the vagina
  • Cancer of the vulva
  • Cancer of the head and neck
  • Cancer of the penis
  • Cancer of the anus

About the disease:
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that can affect both males and females. HPV is so common that up to 90% of people will be infected with at least one genital type of HPV at some time in their life.

In most people, HPV is harmless and has no symptoms, but in others, the virus may persist and lead to diseases of the genital area, including genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva head, neck, penis and anus.

How is it spread:
Anyone who has had any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact could get genital HPV.

There is no cure for HPV, but genital warts can be removed by a variety of methods which include creams, or having them frozen off by your doctor. For the cases that develop in to HPV-caused cancers the usual cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be appropriate.

Impact of HPV:
HPV-caused cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers for women worldwide, with around 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths each year. 

Other HPV‐caused cancers each year include around 38,000 head and neck cancers, 8,500 vulva cancers, 12,000 vaginal cancers, 35,000 anal cancers, and 13,000 penis cancers.

The best protection against HPV is the HPV vaccine which is usually given to young people before they begin sexual activity so that when they eventually do, they are already protected.

It is important to note that women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to have the recommended cervical screening.

Real life stories of HPV:
Tricia talks about her HPV experience here.
Scott talks about his experience with HPV head and neck cancer here:
Denise talks about losing her daughter, Shelley, to cervical cancer here.
Jason talks about his experience with HPV oral cancer here.