Approximately 79 million people in the US are affected by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. Despite this fact, there are many myths about HPV. Here are some of the most common myths and misunderstandings:
Only women get HPV
Men also get HPV. And, it’s also true that most men and women will have at least one HPV infection during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All HPV strains cause cancer
There are a few types of cancer that are caused by HPV including cervical, vaginal, penile and vulvar cancers, but not all strains of HPV cause cancer. The strains that cause cancer (high risk strains) such as types 16 and 18, can cause cervical and other types of cancer. 70 percent of cervical cancer cases come from these strains. Different types of cancer can also be caused by those strains. The National Cancer Institute states that within 1-2 years, most high risk HPV infections go away, not causing cancer.
You can’t get HPV if you don’t have sex
Even if you have protected sex, you can contract HPV if you have skin-to-skin contact. It’s possible to get HPV through skin-to-skin vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Men can get HPV screening
Unfortunately, there aren’t any FDA-approved screenings for HPV in men.
HPV has treatment options
Genital warts and precancerous lesions can be treated, but the virus itself cannot.
If you have HPV, you’ll notice symptoms
This is untrue. In fact, most individuals with HPV never develop any symptoms.
You don’t need to get pap tests if you received an HPV vaccine
You still need to get regular pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. The two available HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) only protect against the high risk, type 16 and 18, HPV strains that cause cancer. These vaccines are preventative measures and don’t help those already infected with HPV. Gardasil is the only vaccine available for men.