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Cancers of the cervix, vagina, anus, and oral cavity have been linked to the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Human papillomavirus, shown on the left, is the cause of cervical cancer in cells shown on the right. In 2014, researchers released a shocking statistic: The human papillomavirus (HPV) infects 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women in the United States who have ever had sex — most of them by age 45. Currently, about 79 million Americans have HPV, and the virus infects 14 million more each year, making it the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the nation.
High-risk strains of the virus (most commonly HPV-16 and HPV-18) are linked to cancers of the cervix, anus, vulva, vagina, penis, mouth, head, and neck in people whose infection is left untreated. You’re most likely to get some type of HPV infection in your teens or early twenties — shortly after you become sexually active, says Mamta Singhvi, MD, a radiation oncologist in Sylmar, California, and board member of the American Sexual Health Association.
But according to the CDC, HPV infections cause cancer in more than 17,000 women and 9,000 men each year in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about the link between HPV and cancers of the cervix, vagina, anus, and oral cavity, and what you can do to protect yourself.
The CDC estimates that more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 die from the condition. The good news is that you can help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine, using condoms, being in a monogamous relationship, and having regular health screenings. Most precancerous signs can be caught with a regular Pap smear before the condition progresses to cancer. If your Pap smear comes back with abnormal results, your doctor will order a test to determine if the HPV strain is high- or low-risk.
Afterwards, you’ll need more frequent Pap and HPV testing until the results come back clear, says David Chelmow, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine in Richmond. You may need screening more frequently if you’re at a higher risk of HPV infection developing into cancer. Another cancer caused by HPV is anal cancer, according to the ACS, which notes that there are nearly 7,300 new cases each year — about 4,650 in women and 2,650 in men. Anal sex is not the only way to get HPV that leads to anal cancer, says Joel Palefsky, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine in San Francisco.
Other risk factors are chronic inflammation, tears in the skin near the anus, being HIV-positive, and taking immunosuppressants. Palefsky screens his HIV-positive patients for anal cancer annually; for patients who are at high risk but don’t have HIV, he screens every two to three years. Palefsky says anal cancer was discovered in many of his patients after they experienced recurrent anal bleeding and went in for surgery to remove hemorrhoids. Your doctor can detect anal cancer through a digital anal rectal exam screening, says Palefsky. About 40,000 Americans get oral cavity cancer (which starts in the mouth) or oropharyngeal cancer (which starts in the throat) each year, and about 7,500 die from these conditions. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the CDC recommend vaccination against HPV at age 11 or 12 for both boys and girls, but can be given as early as age 9.
The vaccines Gardasil (human papillomavirus quadrivalent), Gardasil 9 (human papillomavirus 9-valent), and Cervarix (human papillomavirus bivalent) prevent infection from both HPV-16 and HPV-18, which cause the majority of cancers related to the virus. Other HPV prevention steps recommended by the CDC include using latex condoms every time you have sex, and having sex only with a person who only has sex with you. From our SponsorsEveryday Solutions are created by Everyday Health on behalf of our sponsors.
Most urinary tract infections are diagnosed by a description of your symptoms, such as painful, frequent urination, and a test of your urine for white blood cells, blood, and bacteria (urinalysis). Other tests may be ordered if your doctor thinks that there is some other problem causing the urinary tract infection, such as a kidney stone or a condition called reflux, in which the urine backs up from the bladder toward the kidneys, or if there is a history of recurrent infections.
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Because urinary tract infections in men are quite rare, most men who are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection will be advised to have other tests to determine if something else is responsible. Most cases of simple acute cystitis -- a single episode of a bladder infection -- in young women can be treated with a three- to seven-day course of an antibiotic. Pregnant women, patients with diabetes, patients with kidney stones or other obstructions to the flow of urine, and people who have had symptoms for longer than a week, should all be given a 5- to 14-day course of antibiotics. To confirm that the treatment was successful, your doctor may repeat urine cultures one to two weeks after you finish the antibiotic.
If you're not brushing and flossing regularly, you are at risk for gum disease and potential health problems. Therapist Steven Sultanoff explains the utility of humor in counseling, and Jeffrey Briar leads a session of Laughter Yoga on Laguna Beach. Lower-risk strains of HPV cause genital warts in 180,000 women and 160,000 men each year, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Initially HPV causes no symptoms, and in most young, healthy people, the immune system destroys the HPV virus within a couple of years. Nearly all cases are caused by earlier infection with high-risk strains of the HPV virus, according to the American Cancer Society.
Singhvi says that people with higher numbers of sexual partners, and who began having sex at younger ages, may be at higher risk.
Women should start getting Pap smears at age 21 and have the test every three years until age 29, according to the cervical cancer screening guidelines of the American College of Physicians. If you have a high-risk strain, in-office procedures such as LEEP (loop electrical excision procedure) may be used to shave away the bad cells, allowing healthy tissue to grow in its place.
Risks include a weakened immune system, having the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or taking immunosuppressant drugs. Roughly 1,000 people die each year from anal cancer in the United States, including more than 600 women.
In addition, women who have had cervical cancer, precancerous cervical cells, or HPV-related cancer or pre-cancer in the vulva are at slightly higher risk. During this test, a physician simply uses a gloved finger to feel for a lump or bump that may indicate cancer. Drinking alcohol and smoking are risks for oropharyngeal cancer, but in two out of three cases, the cancer is linked to HPV infection, according to the ACS. View all.ConnectDon't miss out on breaking news, live chats, lively debates, and inspiring stories.
A urine culture is another test that can tell the type of bacteria causing the infection, as well as help determine which antibiotic can best treat the infection. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report. Pregnant women who have been treated for an infection should have monthly urine tests performed until their baby is delivered. Smoking also increases HPV risk because it impairs the immune system, making it more challenging to fight off the virus. From ages 30 to 65, have a Pap test combined with an HPV test every five years, and if HPV testing isn’t available, have a Pap test every three years.
But because healthcare providers don’t screen for vaginal cancer and other less common types of cancer caused by HPV, it’s important to understand their symptoms. Join the conversation!Free NewslettersPersonalized tips and information to get and stay healthier every day.
The doctor uses a swab to collect anal cells to look for changes that point to pre-cancer or cancer.

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