The responsibility rests with patients to contact CANSA for assistance. Read more...

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – Myth vs Fact

HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is a very common virus. There are more than 100 strains of the virus, most of them do not cause cancer. Read more…

About 7 in every 10 people will have HPV infection at some point in their lifetime.

The virus lives on your skin and can be transmitted through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. Because HPV lives on your skin, condoms do not fully protect you from it.

Over 100 types of HPV have been identified, and more than 30 of these infect the genital mucosa, 1 5 of which are oncogenic or cancer causing. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the highest-risk types known to cause about 70% of all cervical cancers. Almost all cases of cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus.

Other strains of HPV are known as high risk. In women, these strains can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, and anus, as well as head and neck cancers.

In men, high risk strains of HPV can cause penile, anal and head and neck cancers.

View HPV awareness video…


Myth:

Only women can get HPV.

Fact:

HPV is common among both men and women. About 80% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own. When it remains, it can lead to genital warts and several types of cancer. This includes cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer and oropharyngeal cancer (tonsils and base of tongue).


Myth:

People with HPV show symptoms.

Fact:

Most people with HPV do not know they’re infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, your immune system fights off the infection within two years.


Myth:

HPV is not common, and it only affects people who have multiple partners, so I should not worry about the HPV vaccine or Pap test.

Fact:

HPV infection is widespread, it affects 80% of men and women approximately.


Myth:

You must have sexual intercourse to get HPV.

Fact:

HPV is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact. While most cases are sexually transmitted, people who have not had intercourse can become infected. Using condoms helps, but they do not completely protect you against the virus. They do not cover all of the genital skin.


Myth:

If you have HPV, you will develop cervical cancer.

Fact:

There are more than 100 strains of HPV virus in which some are high risk for cervical cancer, and some are not. Generally, the body’s immune system clears the virus itself within two years. Only in some cases it does not clear from the body and cause abnormal cell changes in the cervix that you cannot see or feel.


Myth:

There are treatments for HPV.

Fact:

There is no cure or treatment for the HPV virus. But there are ways to treat HPV-related health problems, such as precancerous lesions and genital warts.


Myth:

HPV interferes with pregnancy.

Fact:

In the majority of cases, having HPV does not impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant. If you are pregnant and have HPV, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. Regular screening can find these, and your doctor can treat them. Becoming pregnant after receiving the HPV vaccine is safe. The vaccine does not affect a foetus.


Myth:

An HPV infection means someone wasn’t faithful.

Fact:

An HPV infection may remain dormant and cause zero symptoms for weeks, months, even years. Because sexual partners often share the virus between each other, it’s hard to know who transmitted the virus to whom. It’s very difficult to trace the original infection back to its origin.


Myth:

The HPV vaccine protects you for life.

Fact:

The vaccine is effective for at least 10 years. But doctors are optimistic that it will provide more long-lasting protection. If further study shows the vaccine is losing its effectiveness, a booster vaccine may be required.


Myth:

The HPV vaccine causes teens and preteens to become sexually active.

Fact:

No research links the HPV vaccine to increases in sexual activity. Boys and girls who get the vaccine do not have sex earlier than those who have not received the vaccine. Also, they do not have more partners after they become sexually active.


Myth:

The HPV vaccine may cause medical side effects.

Fact:

The HPV vaccine is a safe drug and doesn’t contribute to any serious health issues. Like any vaccine or medicine, the vaccine may cause mild reactions. The most common are pain or redness in the arm where the shot is given.


Myth:

You got the HPV vaccine, so you can skip your Pap test.

Fact:

Absolutely not. Because no vaccine prevents all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, vaccinated women aged 21 to 29 should still receive Pap tests every three years. Women aged 30 to 64 also should get a Pap test and an HPV test every five years. The HPV test checks your cervix for the virus that can cause abnormal cells that lead to cervical cancer. It may show that more frequent screening is needed. Women aged 65 or older should discuss their individual need for screening with their doctor.


Myth:

Only girls should receive the HPV vaccine.

Fact:

The HPV vaccine protects against high-risk types of HPV that can cause cancer. Both boys and girls aged 11 to 12 should receive the vaccine. That’s when the immune system is at its best to respond to the vaccine.


Myth:

The HPV Vaccine can be administered at any age.

Fact:

In October 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had expanded the approved age for the HPV vaccine up to age 45 for women and men. In June 2019, a key advisory committee for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the vaccine for all men and women up to age 26.


Sources:

Do you have a question?
Ask CANSA
Book a counselling session

CANSA Tele Counselling

 0800 22 6622 Toll Free
 072 197 9305 English and Afrikaans (text only)
 071 867 3530 isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi (text only)

 

  Find Your Care Centre

About Us | Get in Touch

1931 - 2021. 90 Year Anniversary

Sign up to receive news and updates: