HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, can lead to genital warts and cancer. Learn more about how to prevent it and what symptoms to watch out for.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting the genitals of men and women. In some instances, it can lead to genital warts and cancer.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Treatment at Rush
You can get HPV from sex (vaginal, anal and oral sex) and genital-to-genital contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million Americans are infected with HPV.
The good news: HPV goes away in most cases.
The bad news: You may not know you have it because HPV symptoms may not surface for years.
There is no treatment for HPV. Sometimes, HPV does not cause any issues. In other cases, however, HPV can cause genital warts or a variety of cancers — including penile cancer, cervical cancer, anal cancer, throat cancer or cancer in the base of the tongue or tonsils.
Genital warts can be treated with prescription medicine. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
It's a scientific mystery as to why some people have HPV that goes away; while other people have HPV that leads to cancer.
To find HPV before it becomes a problem, we recommend regular screening for women 30 and older (and women with abnormal Pap tests). This test can detect if there are any abnormal cells in the cervix. There is no HPV screening for men.
The best way to prevent HPV from happening in the first place is to get a vaccine. The CDC advises that boys and girls begin getting vaccinated around 11 or 12 years old. You can still get the vaccine up until age 26. Safe and effective, the CDC said that among American teen girls, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 86%.
Signs You Should Get Help for Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Men
Most men who get HPV never develop symptoms. Typically, the infection goes away by itself. However, the infection could cause penile cancer, anal cancer, throat cancer or cancer in the base of the tongue or tonsils.
Previously, smoking was the leading cause of throat cancer, but now it's HPV. Oral cancer is twice as common in men than women, so if you have a sore in your mouth or tongue that doesn't heal, pain while swallowing or a lump in your neck, you need to see your primary care provider.
Men should contact their primary care provider if they notice any new or unusual warts, growths, warts, lumps or sores on their penis, scrotum or anus.
Signs You Should Get Help for Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Women
Similar to men, most women who get HPV don't develop symptoms. Typically, the infection goes away by itself. However, the infection could cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, throat cancer or cancer in the base of the tongue or tonsils.
Women should contact their OB-GYN if they notice any warts near their cervix, vulva, vagina, anus or throat.
Rush Excellence in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Care
- Special care for mothers: Maternal-fetal medicine providers and OB-GYNs at Rush have expertise in caring for pregnant women with HPV.
- Comprehensive cancer treatments: Head and neck cancer providers at Rush can provide a full range of treatments (including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery) for patients with HPV-related cancer.
- Home to specialized screenings and clinics: At Rush, gynecologic oncologists investigate new ways to screen, diagnose and treat cancers affecting women’s reproductive systems, including robotic surgery. At our clinics for gynecologic cancer and head and neck cancers, Rush cancer specialists gather to share their opinions to tailor treatment plans for each patient.