Talk to your doctor about prevention

HPV Prevention Week is October 1 - 7, 2017

What is HPV?

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common, highly contagious virus spread by skin-to-skin contact during genital, anal or oral sex.

Did you know?

About 75% of sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

Fast Facts

There are more than 100 types of HPV with at least 40 that infect the genital tract and 15 that may lead to cancer.

In women, HPV has been linked to cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina and in men, to cancer of the penis. In both women and men, it has been linked to cancer of the anus, and mouth and throat.

Genital Warts and cancers caused by HPV

Genital warts are often the only visible sign that someone has an HPV infection. These are small growths that can appear on or inside the sex organs several weeks, months, or even years after sexual contact. Most often, the HPV virus clears completely, but sometimes the virus stays hidden and reactivates later in life to cause genital warts. The two HPV types responsible for 90% of the cases of genital warts are HPV 6 and 11.

Cervical cancer, or cancer of the cervix, is almost exclusively caused by HPV. In Canada, about 1,500 women are diagnosed each year and 400 die from this type of cancer. Around the world, the four HPV types most commonly associated with cervical cancer are HPV 16, 18, 31 and 45.

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HPV Prevention

The earlier an HPV infection is found, the better chance there is of fighting it. Some ways to ensure early detection:

Pap Test
For women the best defence against cervical cancer is to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test will detect abnormal cells in your cervix that could lead to cervical cancer later in life. A woman should visit a health-care professional to have a Pap test every few years or according to her province's guidelines.

The HPV DNA test is generally recommended for women over 30 whose Pap test results show specific abnormalities. The test detects the presence of HPV in the cells. If HPV is detected, your doctor will recommend further tests. The HPV DNA test is currently not available in all parts of Canada.

Health Exam
Although the Pap test and HPV DNA test are only available for women, men can be examined by their doctor for genital warts caused by HPV and for signs of cancers of the penis, anus, and mouth and throat. Both men and women should visit a doctor for regular health exams if they think they are at risk of contracting HPV or any other sexually transmitted infection.

Immunization Works

The latest 9-valent vaccine protects against the nine HPV types that are known to cause approximately 90% of cervical cancers, 80% of cervical pre-cancers, 75% of HPV-related vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers and pre-cancers, and over 90% of genital warts.

Vaccination is up to 90% effective at preventing the HPV types responsible for most genital warts and HPV-related cancers. There are three vaccines available and approved for use in Canada, each of which protects against certain HPV types:

  • 2-valent HPV vaccine – protects against HPV types 16 and 18
  • 4-valent HPV vaccine – protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18
  • 9-valent HPV vaccine – protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58