March 4th is International HPV Awareness Day

Almost all of us will have HPV at some point and while for most of us it isn’t harmful, HPV is linked to several kinds of cancer. There is a vaccine that can prevent HPV infection and prevent most HPV related cancers. The Malheur County Health Department has the HPV vaccine and has many appointment times available throughout the week for immunizations. HPV vaccine is recommended for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years. (Vaccination can be started at age 9.)  CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also recommends vaccination for everyone through age 26 years if not adequately vaccinated when younger.

The International HPV Awareness Campaign is a key initiative of the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) which aims to increase public awareness of the virus as part of their mission to improve understanding of HPV and the importance of prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of papillomavirus-related diseases.

Educating ourselves and others about HPV and cancer is the first step to reducing our risk. Find out more about the public information resources available to help spread the word. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about HPV.

What is HPV?

HPV means “human papillomavirus”. It’s a very common virus. 8 out of 10 men and women will get it at some point. Lots of people have never heard of it, but HPVs are a very big family of viruses.

There are around 200 types of HPV. Some types of HPV are transmitted by sexual contact and infect the skin cells of the genital region and the mouth and throat. Most cause no harm. But some HPVs cause warts and some can cause cancers. Both men and women get cancer from HPV, and rates are accelerating fastest in men. These cancers include cervical cancer and cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, and throat.

How can I avoid getting HPV?

HPV is a common virus and avoiding it can be difficult. About 8 out of 10 sexually active people get at least one genital HPV infection at some point in their lives! But there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:

  1. The best way to prevent HPV is to be vaccinated at the recommended age. Get vaccinated to prevent HPV infection if you are eligible for the vaccine, or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it. Vaccination can prevent 90% of cervical and anal cancers and most other cancers caused by HPV. The vaccine is most effective if given before you have any sexual contact. Talk to your healthcare provider or call our office at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.
  2. Use condoms whenever you can. Consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of getting HPV. This is because HPV is passed on by skin-to-skin contact. Condoms only partially protect the skin of the genital region. The more consistent the use of condoms, the higher the amount of protection. Condom use 100% of the time reduces the risk of spreading HPV by about 70%. Less consistent use means less protection.
  3. The fewer sexual partners you or your partner have, the lower your risk of getting HPV.

I’ve had the HPV vaccine – do I still need to be screened?

The vaccine reduces your risk of HPV-related cancers by about 90%. But even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you still need to have cervical screening. This is because the vaccine will not protect you against HPV types that you may have acquired before being vaccinated. In addition, you might still get infected after vaccination with the rarer HPV types that can cause cancer but which are not covered by the vaccine.

I’m a boy – do I need to know about HPV?

Yes—you are at risk for HPV and the cancers that it causes. HPV can cause genital warts as well as cancers of the anus, penis and mouth/throat in men. You can also spread HPV to your sexual partners. All of the currently available vaccines prevent infection with HPV types that cause most HPV-related cancers, and some vaccines also protect against the types that cause genital warts. The most important step you can take to prevent HPV is to get vaccinated before you have sex.

We CAN eliminate HPV and create one less worry for our world. Learn more here.

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