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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that affects both men and women. However, women are at higher risk of developing HPV-related health issues, including cervical cancer.
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How can you get it?
HPV is primarily spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Women who have had multiple sexual partners or have sex with partners who have had multiple sexual partners are at higher risk of contracting the virus. The virus is most commonly spread through skin-to-skin contact, so condoms may not provide complete protection.
It is also possible for women to contract the virus through non-sexual means, such as childbirth or skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. However, this is less common than sexual transmission.
What it does to your body
Most women who contract it will not experience any symptoms or health issues. In fact, the body’s immune system can often clear the virus on its own within two years. However, some women may develop health issues related, including:
- Genital warts: HPV can cause warts to develop on the genitals, anus, or throat. These warts are usually painless but may be itchy or uncomfortable. They can be treated with medications or removed through surgical procedures.
- Cervical cancer: it is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. The virus can cause changes to the cells of the cervix, which can eventually lead to cancer if left untreated. Regular Pap tests and HPV tests can detect cervical cancer early, when it is most treatable.
- Other types of cancer: the virus has also been linked to other types of cancer, including anal, vulvar, vaginal, penile, and throat cancers.
There are several steps women can take to prevent it:
- Get vaccinated: The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12. The vaccine is also recommended for women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 who did not get vaccinated when they were younger.
- Practice safe sex: Using condoms can reduce the risk of HPV transmission, but they do not provide complete protection.
- Get regular Pap tests and HPV tests: These tests can detect abnormal changes to the cervix before they turn into cancer.
- Limit sexual partners: The fewer sexual partners a woman has, the lower her risk of contracting HPV.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to serious health issues in women, including cervical cancer. However, there are steps women can take to prevent HPV, including getting vaccinated, practicing safe sex, and getting regular Pap and HPV tests. By taking these steps, women can reduce their risk of developing HPV-related health issues and maintain their overall health and well-being.
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