Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common family of viruses. HPV is passed between people through sexual contact with another person. Sexual contact is when someone has sex with another person or touches another person’s genitals (private parts) with their mouth or hand.
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 types of HPV are high-risk and can cause some rare cancers (e.g., penis vulva, anus or mouth) as well as cancer of the cervix. The cervix is a body part that connects the uterus (womb) to the vagina (genital opening).
Facts About HPV
- HPV is very common. Eight out of 10 people will get HPV at least once in their lifetime.
- People can get HPV from having sexual contact with another person. Sexual contact is when someone has sex with another person or touches another person’s genitals (private parts) with their mouth or hand.
- There is usually no way to know when a person gets HPV. HPV often goes away on its own in 2 to 3 years without doing any harm. However, in some cases, HPV may stay in your cervix.
- HPV infections can sometimes cause changes in the cells of the cervix. Over many years, these cell changes can sometimes lead to cervical cancer. However, these cell changes can be treated before they cause cervical cancer.
- Without a Pap test, someone can have HPV for many years without knowing it is there.
- 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.