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What you need to know about HPV

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human papillomavirus.2 HPV infections are very common.2 Nearly everyone will get HPV at some point in their lifetime.2 ​

Does HPV affect both males and females?

Both males and females can get an HPV infection.5 Most HPV infections go away by themselves within 2 years.2 But sometimes, HPV infections will last longer and can cause certain types of HPV related cancers.2 ​

HPV infections can cause cancers of the2 

  • Cervix
  • Penis
  • Anus​
  • Vagina
  • Vulva

In Ireland in 2020, HPV-related cancers claimed the lives of more than 150 people.8 Additionally, HPV infections can cause genital warts in both males and females, with more than 1,000 reported cases of genital warts in Ireland each year.​14

How is HPV transmitted and its potential risks? 

HPV is spread through intimate skin to skin contact.2 You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection, even if they don’t have any signs or symptoms.2 HPV is a very common virus that can cause cancers later in life.2 

What are the symptoms of HPV?

You can’t always tell if a person has HPV as most HPV infections don’t have signs or symptoms.2,3 This means that people infected with HPV often don’t know that they have it and can continue transmitting the infection to others.3 However, you can develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has the infection.3 This is what makes it hard to know when you first got it.3 HPV that persists can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.3 Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area.3

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

It’s important to note that developing cancer after a HPV infection typically takes years.5 While some individuals may clear their HPV infection within two years, others may not be able to do so.2,5 For those who do not clear the infection, there is a potential risk of developing certain types of HPV-related cancers.2 However, it is impossible to predict who will develop cancer or other health issues resulting from HPV.5 This is why cervical screening is important.9 ​ People with weakened immune systems, like people with HIV, may be less able to clear HPV infections, and more likely to develop health problems caused by HPV.5 Regular medical check-ups can help in monitoring and addressing any potential health concerns associated with HPV.4,10

How can I avoid HPV and the health problems it can cause?

To minimise the risk of HPV and associated health complications, several preventive measures can be taken:​

  1. Cervical Screening: Anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 65 should go for their regular cervical screening when due.9 Screening is essential for early detection and intervention if any abnormalities are found.​3
  2. If you are sexually active, consistent and correct use of condoms can reduce the chances of contracting HPV.3 While condoms provide some protection, it’s important to note that they may not fully guard against HPV, as the virus can infect areas not covered by the condom.3
  3. Vaccination – there are vaccines available to protect against diseases, including cancer, caused by HPV.3 ​

By following these preventive measures, you can lower the likelihood of contracting HPV and minimise the potential health risks it can cause.10 Remember to consult with your doctor or nurse for guidance and recommendations.​


Need more information?

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