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Learning the ABCs of HPV

HPV is incredibly common and usually harmless, but because it could lead to more serious health issues in some cases, it’s important to know the basics.

Is human papillomavirus (HPV) the common cold of sex? It’s estimated that 75 percent or more of all sexually active people have at least one HPV infection in their lives. Most cases are harmless and clear away naturally, but a few will persist. And if “high risk” HPV types are undetected, it can increase the risk for cervical and some other cancers.

So, here is a short list of what you should know (and do) about HPV.

Anyone who has sex can have HPV regardless of who they love or how many partners they have.

Do you know what it says about you if you’re diagnosed with HPV? That you’re normal. Perfectly normal.

HPV vaccines are available for males and females through age 45. They work best when given at a young age, though, ideally at ages 11 to 12, which provides the strongest protection in later years. These vaccines are incredibly safe, effective cancer prevention tools.

Get checked for cervical cancer. There are several approaches to these checks, including having a test for HPV — either alone or as a co-test done along with a Pap test — every five years. Some healthcare providers might opt to do a Pap every three years.

The exact approach or combination of tests isn’t as important as simply making sure you’re checked on a schedule recommended by your provider. That’s the key to prevention and if you’re not sure what to door when you should be checked, speak up and ask. It’s your health!

For more on HPV and cervical cancer prevention visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition online.

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