Deepak Chopra, MD - Weekly Health Tip: Could You Have HPV?
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a sneaky invader. Genital HPV, pictured above, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., yet most of the people who have it have no idea that they been exposed. More than 40 types of HPV can be spread through sexual contact. Approximately 20 million Americans are infected with the virus right now. About half of sexually active men and women will contract HPV during their lifetime. The good news is that nearly 90% of those infected will never know they had HPV. Their immune system will fight it off naturally, and they will remain symptom free. However, some varieties of HPV cause genital warts, which can also spread to the mouth and throat. Even more critically, certain varieties can lead to cervical cancer, and less common cancers of the sexual organs, head and neck. Because HPV is a silent attacker, thorough preventive measures and regular medical screening are the key to avoiding its worst effects.
The surest preventive measure—total abstinence from sex—is not the most popular one. People who are sexually active can get considerable protection from condoms. A 2006 study found that women whose partner used a condom every time they had intercourse cut their risk of contracting HPV by 70%. Condoms are not 100% effective, because they do not cover all areas where HPV can be transmitted. Vaccines that protect patients from most cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV are widely available now. Women should be screened for cervical cancer by getting a Pap test every year. And while the appearance of bumpy, raised or flat warts on the genitals is unpleasant, the warts can be diagnosed and treated easily by a physician.
Learn more about avoiding HPV and detecting its more serious symptoms: