Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common family of viruses that is mainly passed between people through skin-to-skin, intimate sexual contact, such as intercourse, or oral and digital sexual activity or touching, from a partner of any gender.
There are over 100 "types" of HPV. Some HPV types can cause genital warts, but do not cause cancer. These are commonly referred to as “low-risk” HPV types. Other, “high-risk” HPV types can cause cancer of the cervix and some other rare cancers (e.g., penis, vulva, anus or mouth).
Facts About HPV
- HPV is very common. About 3 out of every 4 people – males and females – who have had sex have been exposed to HPV at some point in their lives.
- Usually there are no symptoms and people do not know they have HPV. This makes it hard to know when and how you were exposed to the virus.
- The infection usually goes away on its own within 1 to 2 years. However, in some cases an HPV infection may persist.
- Sometimes infection with HPV, whether or not it is a cancer-causing type of HPV, causes cells on the cervix to become abnormal.
- HPV infections and these early cell changes usually cause no symptoms and would go undetected without a Pap test.
- Over a number of years (10 years or more), a persistent cancer-causing type of HPV infection can slowly cause cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer, unless found and treated.
- The HPV test is currently not publicly funded.
- Until the HPV test is publicly funded, it is recommended that the Pap test continue to be used for cervical screening.