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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) / Genital Warts

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can occur in the penis or external genitals, vagina or internal genitals, anus, and throat. There are over 40 different types of HPV that can cause infections in these areas.

Some types of HPV cause genital warts. Other types of HPV are more serious and may cause cancer of the cervix, anus, vagina/internal genitals, penis/external genitals, genital area, and throat.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can occur in the penis or external genitals, vagina or internal genitals, anus, and throat. There are over 40 different types of HPV that can cause infections in these areas.


Some types of HPV cause genital warts. Other types of HPV are more serious and may cause cancer of the cervix, anus, vagina/internal genitals, penis/external genitals, genital area, and throat. This page has information only about HPV strains that may cause cancer.


HPV can be managed. It is common within British Columbia.

 

If you have HPV, it is common to not have any symptoms. If you do get symptoms, the type of symptoms will depend on where the infection is located.

 
HPV is usually spread through sexual intercourse. 
HPV is passed though vaginal, oral, and anal sexual contact. This includes both penetrative sex and sexual activities where there is skin-to-skin contact. You can also get HPV by sharing sex toys. If you have HPV, you can pass it to others even if you don’t have symptoms.

 
Most types of HPV do not cause any health problems. However, some can cause changes in your cells that can lead to cancer. Of these types of cancers, cervical cancer is the most likely.
 
There is currently no routine test for HPV in British Columbia. Instead, a Pap test is used to screen for cancerous changes in cells.

People with a cervix should have regular cervical Pap testing done, as recommended by BC Cancer. If you have receptive anal sex or are living with HIV, some health professionals may recommend that you have regular anal Pap testing. Talk to your health care provider to figure out what’s best for you.
 
Most HPV infections go away on their own and do not need treatment. If an HPV infection persists, there are different ways that the cancerous changes in the cells can be treated, depending on how severe the changes are.

If you have an abnormal Pap result, you may need to have a Pap test more often or go for additional testing. Pap tests often find changes early enough that treatment can be given before cancer develops.
 
There are currently two HPV vaccines approved for use in Canada:
  • Gardasil®9 (HPV9)
  • Cervarix® (HPV2)
Both vaccines protect against 2 HPV types that cause about 70% of cervical cancers and 80% of anal cancers. The HPV9 vaccine protects against five additional cancer causing types which account for about 15% of cervical cancers, 11% of anal cancers in females and 4% in males. HPV9 vaccine also protects against 2 HPV types that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts.

For more information on the HPV vaccines, see HealthLinkBC file #101b Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines.

It is important for women to get regular Pap tests because the HPV vaccine protects against most but not all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

The risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners and having unprotected sex. While using a condom protects against HPV infections, condoms cannot cover all the skin surfaces around the genitals and the anus, and therefore does not guarantee complete protection against HPV. It is a good idea to be tested regularly for STIs, especially if you have new sexual partners or open relationships.
SOURCE: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) / Genital Warts ( )
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