Dealing with myths and other false information is challenging and confusing when it comes to our health and some specific medical concerns. It is paramount to dispel myths and have access to accurate information, particularly when it comes to illness and our ability to recover from it.
Human papillomavirus is certainly something you’ve heard about before. First, because its abbreviation, HPV, may be familiar to you. Or perhaps you know someone who underwent the sequence of shots. You might even be infected with it yourself or know someone who is.
No matter how much you know about HPV, there is still a lot that is unknown about the virus, the vaccine, and how it impacts our bodies. Some of these HPV myths are to be dispelled so we will have accurate and reliable information in hand.
The cervix, or the lower portion of the uterus that attaches to the vagina, is where cervical cancer develops. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a collection of more than 100 viruses that infect the skin and are spread by skin-to-skin contact, is the primary cause of the great majority (95%) of cervical cancers.
Precancerous cells can be identified through screening and early identification, allowing for their monitoring or removal before they become invasive. An HPV infection may take years to manifest its effects. Cancerous cells that start in the cervix can move to other regions of the vaginal or pelvic walls, the bladder, rectum, kidney, lymph nodes, and other sections of the body if undiagnosed and untreated.
Here are six widespread myths about HPV:
Myth #1: You will know you have HPV based on some symptoms.
Fact: The reason HPV is referred to as a silent infection is that it has no symptoms, and people don’t know they are infected with it. It can only be detected through testing, such as a Pap test, for a woman. The examination searches for proteins linked to the virus. While some HPV strains can result in genital warts, which do not progress to cancer, other strains have the potential to do so.
Myth #2: HPV infections are rare.
Fact: HPV infections are extremely common. Eighty million people have an HPV infection, and 14 million more will receive a diagnosis this year. Our bodies are designed to fight off this virus, so not every HPV infection will result in cervical cancer; but, if you have recurrent infections, it may result in precancers or malignancies.
In early adulthood, a sizable proportion of both men and women are exposed to at least one of the more than 100 distinct HPV strains. In addition to being a fairly widespread virus, most carriers inadvertently spread the disease to their partners because they rarely experience symptoms or health problems.
Myth #3: Only women get infected with HPV.
Fact: Both men and women are susceptible to HPV infection. Men are three times more likely than women to be infected with HPV. There isn’t a screening procedure for guys yet. Men with HPV infections don’t typically experience any symptoms, and the infections typically go away independently. But if they don’t, some tumors, including penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancer, can grow slowly over time. You can lessen your infection risk by using condoms and obtaining the HPV vaccine.
Even though routine Pap tests and HPV vaccinations may avoid up to 93 percent of cervical cancer cases, thousands of women in the U.S. die from the disease every year. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are possible treatments depending on the stage and location.
Myth #4: You can only get HPV through sexual intercourse.
Fact: The most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the US is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transferred through close, non-sexual contact. Although condoms do not completely enclose the genital area, they can aid in limiting the spread of HPV during sexual activity.
Myth #5: HPV vaccines are dangerous and aren’t safe.
Fact: The two most common genital warts and the seven strains of HPV that most frequently result in cancer are both protected by the HPV vaccine. The best way to avoid HPV and cervical cancer is to get vaccinated as a child, in addition to annual screenings. Girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12, ideally before they are exposed to HPV, are advised to receive the FDA-approved vaccine.
The most frequent side effects of the vaccine include fever, headaches, and discomfort or redness in the arm where it was administered. The vaccine is safe. No deaths linked to drugs have occurred because of getting the vaccine. The risks of getting cancer from HPV outweigh the vaccine’s adverse effects.
Myth #6: No need for Pap test screening once you get the HPV vaccine
Fact: The vaccine does not protect against all HPV strains, only the top seven cancer-causing ones. Because of this, getting screened with a Pap test is still crucial to find any abnormalities in your cervix.
When detected early, cervical cancer can be effectively treated and is preventable. Don’t let misconceptions about HPV and cervical cancer rob you of your future. Let’s not put ourselves, family, friends, and other loved ones in danger until it’s too late because of false information about the illness and the HPV vaccine.
Take the first step, get more information through the HPV clinical trials at Power, and consult your health provider for further details.