What You Can Do To Prevent Cancer Caused by HPV

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Know Your Risk for Getting Cancer Caused by HPV

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. Having HPV (human papillomavirus) raises your risk of getting a cancer caused by HPV. Almost everyone who is sexually active and not vaccinated for HPV will get the virus. You can get HPV from skin-to-skin (sexual) contact, such as vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral (mouth) sex. You can get it from someone who has the virus, even if they don’t have symptoms.

The types of HPV that spread during skin-to-skin contact fall into 2 groups, low-risk and high-risk.

  • Low-risk HPV can cause genital warts, but it usually does not lead to serious health problems.
  • High-risk HPV can lead to cancer, even years after infection.

6 Types of Cancer Caused by HPV

Figure 1. 6 types of cancer caused by HPV


Figure 1. 6 types of cancer caused by HPV

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What You Can Do To Lower Your Risk for HPV and HPV-Related Cancers

Get Vaccinated

The HPV vaccine is a shot in the arm that your healthcare provider gives you. The vaccine can protect you from the 9 most common types of HPV.

  • Everyone ages 9 to 45 can get the vaccine.
  • It’s best to get the vaccine between ages 9 and 12. But it will still protect you if you get it when you’re older.
  • For people ages 15 and older, the vaccine is given in 3 shots. After the first shot, it’s given again after 1 month and after 6 months.
  • Getting the HPV vaccine does not make it harder to get pregnant in the future.

Use Condoms and Dental Dams During Sexual Activity

During anal, vaginal, and oral (mouth) sex, use condoms and dental dams (a thin sheet that protects against mouth-to-skin contact). They can lower your risk of getting HPV, but don’t prevent it. Getting the vaccine is the best way to prevent HPV.

Get Tested and Screened

Cervical Pap smears and HPV tests can find HPV early.

  • Cervical Pap smears look for cell changes that can become cancer if they are not treated. The cervix is the lower, narrow opening of the uterus. It leads from the uterus to the vagina. If you were assigned female at birth (your gender now does not matter), you probably have a cervix.
  • HPV tests look for high-risk types of HPV in the cells in the cervix.

If you have abnormal Pap smear results or a positive HPV test result, you may need more tests or treatment. A positive HPV test result means the test found HPV.

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Will My Health Insurance Cover the HPV Vaccine?

Most health plans cover the cost of the HPV vaccine. Ask your insurance company if yours does. If your health insurance does not cover the vaccine and you’re younger than 18, you can get it for free. It’s offered through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. If you’re over 18, talk to your healthcare provider about how to get the vaccine for free.

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Actions You Can Take Today

  • Know your risk for HPV and cancers caused by HPV. 
  • Get the HPV vaccine.
  • Use condoms and dental dams during sex.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about getting tested for HPV.  
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