NurseAsk Nurse Lisa

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some types can lead to cancer or genital warts.

There are many types of HPV, some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. Most people who have sex get HPV at some point in their lives. Most people have no symptoms and usually don’t know they’re infected.

How do I know that I have HPV?

Most people will not develop any signs or symptoms of HPV. But sometimes, certain symptoms such as genital warts (growths or bumps in the genital area) can occur. Other HPVs can cause cervical cancer or other less common cancers. Testing for HPV is mainly available when women are screened for cervical cancer at certain ages and with certain pap smear test findings. There is no general test to find HPV on the genitals or in the mouth or throat.

How can I get it?

HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or possibly oral sex. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. It is possible to get more than one type of HPV.

How can I get treated?

There is no cure for HPV, but genital warts can be treated or removed. However, HPV can be prevented by getting the HPV vaccines for girls age 9-26. It protects females against 70% of all HPVs that cause cervical cancer and 90% of all HPVs that cause genital warts. A vaccine (Gardasil) is now also available for children ages 11-26 that prevent most genital warts and anal cancers.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Besides potentially causing cervical cancer and genital warts, HPV can make people more susceptible to HIV infection and can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

To learn more about HPV visit Planned Parenthood or STD Fact CDC

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Care page.