What is HPV?
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts while others can cause cancer. In both men and women, HPV can cause mouth/throat cancer and anal/rectal cancer. Men can also get penile cancer. In women, HPV can cause vulvar, vaginal, and cervical cancers. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and there are an estimated 20 million Americans currently infected with HPV.
How do you get it?
HPV is spread through skin to skin contact. It can be spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex and genital-genital contact. Most people do not know they are infected and can pass the virus to a sexual partner without any symptoms. The majority of people who are sexually active will become infected at some point in their lives. The body can fight off HPV, and most HPV infections will go away on their own and never cause any health problems. In cases where HPV does not go away naturally, it can cause normal cells on your skin to become abnormal and may lead to genital warts or cancer over a period of time.
How do I get tested?
HPV testing is used for women of certain ages with certain pap tests. Cervical cancer can be prevented and detected by routine cervical cancer screening (pap tests) starting at age 21 for women, and follow-up of any abnormal results. There is currently no test available for men, and no approved or recommended tests for anal, penile, or oral cancers.
How do I prevent it?
Most importantly…Get vaccinated!!!
There is a vaccine that can prevent infection with HPV and most cancers and diseases that are caused by HPV. The vaccine prevents HPV types that are associated with genital warts and the “high-risk” strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine is called Gardasil. This vaccine is approved by the FDA and recommended for both males and females. It can be given from ages 9 to 26, but is routinely given at age 11 or 12. The vaccine is either a two or three dose series depending on age.
HPV can also be prevented by limiting your number of sexual partners and by using condoms correctly and consistently during sex. Condoms may not fully protect against HPV as HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom.
Why is the HPV vaccine important? Are there any risks?
The HPV vaccine is important because it prevents cancer!
As with any vaccine, mild side effects and reactions are possible and will go away on their own. Soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given are fairly common. Some people might have a mild fever or headache afterwards. Serious reactions are possible but rare. A healthcare provider will determine if it is safe for you to receive this vaccine.
If you would like more information about HPV or Gardasil, please call 406-587-0681 or go on Bridgercare’s website to make an appointment. We would be happy to answer any questions!
If you are under 18, parental consent is required for the first vaccine.
There are multiple options for payment and for getting the Gardasil vaccine covered, and a Bridgercare staff member can easily help you with this.
Here are a few good resources for more information:
WATCH THIS MOVIE – “Someone You Love”: Rent it here for $3.99 or check it out at the Bozeman Public Library for free: http://hpvepidemic.vhx.tv/
https://hpvepidemic.vhx.tv/products/someone-you-love-the-hpv-epidemic (This is a great documentary film about the HPV epidemic- highly recommended!)
https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/pdf/data-summary-hpv-gardasil-vaccine-is-safe.pdf (Info about HPV vaccine safety for parents)
By Bridgercare RN Chloe Georgeton