Myths and Facts About HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the US. Though it’s usually harmless, it can also lead to cervical cancer or genital warts. HPV is also widely misunderstood. There is too much misinformation floating around about this incredibly prevalent disease. 

At Apple Hill Gynecology, in York, Pennsylvania, Marsha D. Bornt, MD, and Donna Lamson, CRNP, MSN, WHNP-BC, and our all-women team, provide testing for HPV and any necessary treatment to protect your health. 

First, we want to clear up some common HPV myths.

Myth: I won’t get HPV.

Fact: HPV is so prevalent that almost everyone has it at some point during their life. Around 79 million Americans have the disease, and most of them are in their late teens or early 20s. The infection is often asymptomatic — it doesn’t cause symptoms — so people can spread it unknowingly.

Myth: Only women can get HPV.

Fact: Anyone can get HPV, regardless of your gender. There are over 100 different strains of HPV. Some can cause genital warts as well as severe health issues, including cervical, vagina, vulva, penile, and anal cancer.

Myth: HPV doesn’t cause symptoms

Fact: In most cases, this is true. Your immune system can usually fight off HPV without you ever knowing that you have the disease. However, some strains cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. 

It’s also important to note that there’s no cure for HPV. If you have the disease, your immune system needs to fight it off. We offer treatments to address the symptoms of HPV, such as cryotherapy for genital warts or abnormal cells on your cervix.

Myth: Condoms prevent HPV.

Fact: Not necessarily. HPV spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and condoms don’t cover your entire genital area. You can reduce your risk of HPV by having STD testing, including HPV tests, before having sex with a new partner. 

Myth: If my partner tests negative for STDs, I don’t need to worry about HPV.

Fact: HPV isn’t always included in general STD tests. You have to request an HPV test. In fact, most gynecologists don’t provide HPV tests unless you have an abnormal Pap smear. Here at Apple Hill Gynecology, we offer combined HPV and Pap tests during your annual exam, upon your request. 

Myth: The HPV vaccine is dangerous.

Fact: Absolutely not. The HPV vaccine is an FDA-approved medication that has been through stringent testing for safety and effectiveness. The HPV vaccine protects you from HPV for at least 10 years, potentially even longer. 

Additionally, the vaccine doesn’t promote early sexual activity or promiscuity among young people. You can help protect your child’s health by getting them the HPV vaccine.

Myth: I can skip Pap smears if I have an HPV vaccine.

Fact: HPV isn’t the only cause of abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer. You should continue to have routine Pap smears and pelvic exams after having the HPV vaccine. We recommend that most women have Pap smears every three to five years and provide personalized advice based on your risk of cervical cancer.

If you’re concerned about HPV or any other STDs, schedule an appointment with us by calling or booking online. We offer a comprehensive range of women’s health services, including STD testing, annual exams, and Pap smears, to protect your health.

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