illustration of parent discussing HPV
Why is it important for parents and teenagers to know about HPV?
HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their lives8. If the HPV infection doesn't clear up by itself, it can manifest itself as cancer later in life.3

What you need to know about HPV

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus.
HPV is a family of very common and highly contagious viruses8

Isn’t the HPV vaccine just for girls?

The HPV vaccine is for boys and girls1. HPV immunisation prevents certain HPV infection which can lead to cancers like cervical and anal cancers1. Both boys and girls are offered vaccination under the National HPV Immunisation Programme in their first year of secondary school8.

How does HPV affect males and females?

Males and females can get HPV infection. HPV infection usually clears up by itself but if not, it can cause cancers in both men and women such as anal cancer in men and cervical and anal cancers in women1.

Every year in Ireland, up to 130 people die from HPV-related cancers (100 female, 30 male)5 while 1 in 20 of all cancers are caused by HPV infection7. HPV can also cause genital warts  in both males and females with more than 1,000 reported cases of genital warts each year in Ireland9.  

How is HPV transmitted?

HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. It’s very common and highly contagious. HPV is so common that almost everyone who is sexually active will get HPV  infection at some point in their lifetime8. Most adults in Ireland don’t realise they’re likely to have been exposed to HPV2.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

You can’t always tell if someone has HPV as most HPV infections don’t come with clinical symptoms. This means that people infected with HPV often don’t know that they have it and can continue transmitting the virus to others1.

If I have HPV infection, will I definitely get cancer?

No. While almost every man and woman will get HPV infection at some point in their lives, HPV infection usually clears up by itself. When HPV infection doesn’t clear up by itself, it becomes a problem as it could lead to cancers8. There is no way to tell who will clear the virus and who won’t which is why prevention is so important.

Is it possible to help to protect against HPV before being exposed to HPV infection?

In Ireland the National HPV Immunisation Programme offers vaccination to all boys and girls in first year of secondary school8. HPV immunisation is most effective before a person becomes sexually active. The vaccine is also offered to certain adults up to the age of 46, who are eligible and at-risk10. HPV immunisation prevents certain HPV infection which can lead to cancers like cervical cancer and anal cancer8.

Are there side effects?

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Advisory  Committee for Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has reviewed  the evidence on the safety of the HPV vaccine in 2007,  2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015. WHO has never  reported safety concerns with HPV vaccines11.

Common side effects of HPV vaccine include1:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

I have more questions about HPV, who can I talk to?

If you need more information about HPV/HPV  prevention and the HPV vaccine, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

What is the HPV Cervical Screening Test

A cervical screening test checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.12

It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer from developing.12

Screening first looks to see if you have any of the high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer.12

If HPV is found, your same test sample will be checked to see if you have any abnormal (precancerous) cells in your cervix.12

This is a new way of screening. It is called HPV cervical screening. It was introduced in Ireland in March 2020.12

HPV cervical screening12:

  • is a better way of cervical screening
  • prevents more cancers
  • means some people will have fewer tests

If you have had a smear test in the past, having a cervical screening test will feel the same.

For more information visit CervicalCheck website

Need more information?

Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about HPV today

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