Myths About HPV and Cervical Cancer

Most sexually active people will contract the human papillomavirus (HPV) at least once. Nearly 80 million people in the United States have an HPV infection, whether they know it or not. It is transmitted more than any other sexually transmitted virus.

A sexually active person of any age can contract HPV, but most HPV infections involve people between 25 and 35 because they are the most sexually active. There is presently no cure for HPV. However, about 70 to 90% of HPV-infected people never experience any symptoms or cancer because their immune systems eliminate the virus from their bodies.

Cervical Dysplasia

Unfortunately, a small percentage of HPV-infected people will have an HPV strain which causes genital warts, cervical dysplasia, or cervical cancer. Cervical dysplasia is a medical term describing the abnormal changes in cervical cells. You may not realize you have it until a doctor gives you a pap smear to inspect the cervix.

If a doctor diagnoses you with cervical dysplasia, they will want you to get a pap test and HPV test together every 12 months. They may even want you to get it every six months if your abnormal cervical cells grow too much. In addition, your doctor may recommend you undergo a biopsy to remove lesions or tissue samples from the cervix to study them more closely.

Top 6 Myths About HPV and Cervical Cancer 

Most people’s knowledge of HPV comes from what they hear on television and in the news. Although some information from the news media may be accurate, there is also a lot of false information about HPV floating around social media and other places. That is the reason why myths about HPV exist.

Let us debunk the top six myths about HPV and its connection to cervical cancer.

Myth #1 – Only Women with Multiple Sexual Partners Can Get HPV 

No, that is not true. A woman can contract HPV from having sex once with an infected person. But, of course, the risk of contracting HPV is much higher when a woman sleeps around with multiple sexual partners.

Myth #2 – Frequent Pap Testing Can Stop Cervical Cancer from Growing

It is suitable for a woman to get frequent pap testing to look for abnormal cervical cellular growth. Unfortunately, not all pap tests are perfect. Sometimes a pap test may miss detecting precancerous cells in a woman’s cervix. For this reason, women over 30 should get a pap test and HPV test simultaneously to ensure signs of precancerous cells or cervical cancer are detected.

Myth #3 – HPV Often Leads to Cervical Cancer

Most HPV-infected women never get cervical cancer, nor do they experience any symptoms. In fact, only a tiny percentage of HPV-infected women get cervical cancer because they contracted a high-risk HPV strain. All the other infected women’s immune systems will usually eradicate the virus within two years before any severe symptoms develop.

Myth #4 – Warning Symptoms Develop from HPV Infections

No, most HPV infections do not cause any warning symptoms or signs. That is why most women don’t even get tested for HPV or cervical cancer until they start experiencing symptoms for the first time. By that point, the virus may have already progressed to where it’ll be more challenging to treat. For this reason, women must frequently get pap and HPV tests to look for signs of HPV or abnormal cervical cell growth before it worsens.

Myth #5 – Getting HPV and Pap Tests Are the Only Ways to Prevent Cervical Cancer

No, there are other things you can do to prevent cervical cancer. The best preventative measures include getting the HPV vaccine, stopping smoking, reducing the number of sexual partners, and wearing protection during sex. A woman can also practice healthier lifestyle choices to increase the strength of her immune system to help fight off the virus and prevent cancer naturally.

Myth #6 – HPV Vaccinated Women Don’t Need to Get an HPV Test or Pap Test

Women who have gotten the HPV vaccine should still get an HPV test and pap test regularly.  The HPV vaccine only protects women against two high-risk HPV strains out of more than a dozen of others out there. So if a vaccinated woman contracts an HPV strain that the vaccine doesn’t protect, she could still experience symptoms and transmit the virus to her sexual partner.