The human papillomavirus (HPV) contributes to the development of condylomata and of certain cancers. Protecting against the virus, means guarding against these illnesses.
A seemingly innocuous virus
Most people with an infection caused by HPV do not feel any particular symptom. In most cases, the infection will disappear on its own within two years, often without treatment. However, the infection persists in roughly 10% to 20% of cases. In such cases, there is a higher risk of developing certain diseases, such as cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal and penile cancers, and condylomata.
Persistent infections due to HPV may also, in fewer instances, lead to other types of cancer. Many years may pass between the transmission of the virus and the appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.
For additional information about the risks of HPV on health, read the following.
Here are some suggestions of preventive measures to take to help protect against HPV:
- Use a condom during sexual relations.
The use of condoms does not completely eliminate the risk of contracting the virus, because they do not necessarily cover every area that has skin to skin contact. However, using a condom can reduce the risk of contracting HPV.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
The risk of contracting HPV rises with the number of sexual partners.
- Consider being vaccinated against HPV. It is by far the most effective way to avoid contracting the infection and of suffering the consequences.
The vaccine against HPV
There exists on the market a vaccine capable of preventing the types of HPV infections most commonly associated with the development of diseases such as genital warts, cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers. Two vaccines are commercially available in Canada: one protects against type 16 and 18 strains only, and the other protects against all nine types of HPV that most often threaten health (6, 11, 16,18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58).
The first one is intended for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 25 years old, to prevent cervical cancer. The second is intended for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 45 years old, to prevent the diseases most frequently associated with the nine types of HPV mentioned above, including uterine, vulvar, and vaginal cancers and condylomata. The latter is also intended for boys and men between the ages of 9 and 26 years old, to protect against genital warts and cancerous and precancerous anal lesions.
Several organizations viewed as authorities on the matter of public health, such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), have taken position in favour of using the vaccine for the populations mentioned above. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if you are a candidate for the vaccine. It is very likely that you will be able to receive it at the pharmacy. Ask a team member at the pharmacy counter for information about this service.
It should be noted that the vaccines do not treat HPV infections or the diseases they cause, but rather prevent them. They do not protect against diseases that are not caused by HPV, nor do they protect against the diseases caused by the types of HPV that are not specifically targeted by the vaccine. It is important for those eligible for the vaccine to follow the dosage regimen to the letter and receive the entire series of shots (three in total).
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for additional information on the HPV vaccine, the measures to take to prevent the infection and the associated medical consequences. The decision whether or not to receive the vaccine is an important one. Don't take any unnecessary risks!