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HPV: What You Can Do

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a preventable infection. When you are aware and make good decisions about your sexual health, your risk of getting HPV is much lower. There is a lot that you can do to prevent contracting HPV.

How do I lower my chances of getting HPV?

You can lower your risk of HPV by:

1.    A vaccine

The 3 dose vaccination series is best between the ages of 11 and 12 for males and females. For females, the 2 available vaccines are Cervarix and Gardasil. They protect against most types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. For males, Gardasil protects against most genital warts and anal cancers.

2.    Use Condoms

If abstinence is not an option, use a condom every time you have sex.  Condoms may also lower the risk of developing genital warts or cervical cancer. However, the virus can still infect places that the condom does not cover.

3.    One Partner

Not having sex is the only way to avoid HPV. For many people, that is not an option. The next best way to prevent the virus is to be in a relationship with only one partner.

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How do I figure out if I have HPV?

There are tests that help your doctor diagnose the infection.

Women: There are a number of ways to get tested for HPV, some of these include:

Men: There is no FDA-approved HPV test for men.  If genital warts appear, they can be treated accordingly. Homosexual and Bisexual men should get anal pap tests.

If I have HPV, how do I get it treated?

There is no cure for HPV. HPV clears up 70-90% of the time on its own. Sometimes, help is needed though. If virus does not go away on its own, there are lots of treatment options that work to relieve symptoms. Based on the severity of the symptoms and what part of the body the virus is affecting, treatments may be different between men and women. Doctors will treat a patient with HPV in the way they think fits best. 

Treatment can be:

  1. Prescription creams
  2. Cryosurgery, or
  3. Electrocautery.

What can I do to be healthy and HPV free?

Get regular medical checkups with your doctor.  Be sure that the checkup includes a review of your medical history and a physical exam.  Your checkup may also include:

  1. Imaging procedures (pictures of areas inside the body),
  2. Endoscopy (the use of a thin, lighted tube to examine the inside of the body),
  3. Blood work and other lab tests.

Follow-up care is important because it helps to identify changes in your health.

Women who get a free screening and have the virus should follow up with a doctor. Transportation, fear, cost, and family are all reasons why someone may not seek further treatment. No matter the diagnosis, stay connected with your doctor. HPV is a lot less dangerous when it is caught and treated early.



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Last Reviewed: Jul 13, 2015

Li  Li, MD PhD Li Li, MD PhD
Case Western Reserve University