HPV Testing and Vaccination
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease. There are over 50 different strains of HPV. Some strains cause genital warts while others cause abnormal Paps and cervical cancers. They can also cause warts on the throat and penile and anal cancers. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one strain of HPV during their lifetime.
Genital and oral warts are diagnosed by visualizing the lesions in these areas. When the diagnosis is unclear, a biopsy can be done to confirm.
For women, the strains of HPV that cause abnormal Pap and cervical cancer can be detected on a Pap smear. This is called HPV co-testing. This testing is recommended for women between 30-65. Younger women with risk factors such as multiple sexual partners can also be tested.
There is no commercially available test for men to detect HPV.
The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine used to prevent cancer. The CDC recommends that boys and girls receive a vaccine to prevent HPV starting at age 9. There are two vaccines available:
Gardasil: available to boys and girls age 9-26. It protects against 4 strains of HPV –two that cause genital warts and two that cause abnormal Paps. There are three shots in the series given at 0. 2, and 6 months.
Cervarix: available to girls from age 9-26. It protects against two strains of HPV causing abnormal Paps. There are three shots in the series given at 0, 1, and 6 months.
Approximately 57 million doses of HPV vaccine have been administered in the US in the last 7 years. The most common side effects are dizziness, nausea and pain at the injection site.