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What is HPV?

HPV, short for Human Papillomavirus, is a very common virus.2 There are many different types of HPV.3 Almost everyone will get HPV at some point in their lives.2 

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex, even if the infected person doesn’t have any signs or symptoms.​2

If you are sexually active, you can get HPV, regardless of the number of sexual partners you’ve had.3 You can also develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has the infection, which makes it hard to know when you first got it.​3

Fortunately, most HPV infections resolve on their own within two years.2 However, some infections will last longer and can lead to genital warts and certain types of cancers in both men and women.​2

Regular screenings and open communication with healthcare professionals can help in monitoring and managing HPV-related health concerns.4

HPV infections can cause cancers of the2:

  • ​Cervix, vagina, and vulva​
  • Penis​
  • Anus​

It’s important to note that cancer typically takes years, or even decades, after getting a HPV infection.5 There is no way to know who will develop cancer or other health problems from HPV.5 ​

People with weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV/AIDS, may be less able to clear HPV infections, and more likely to develop health problems caused by HPV.​5

Annual Incidence of HPV related cancers in Ireland in 20208

Cervical Cancer and HPV

HPV is responsible for over 90% of cervical cancer cases.5 Unlike other types of cancer caused by HPV, signs of an individual being at risk of developing cervical cancer can be detected early through cervical screening.4 This provides an opportunity for early intervention and treatment.5

However, it’s important to note that other HPV-related cancers may not be detected until they have progressed to more advanced stages, leading to more serious health issues.5