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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common family of viruses that is primarily passed between two people through skin-to-skin, intimate sexual contact, such as intercourse, oral and digital sexual activity or touching, from a partner of any gender

There are over 100 "types" of HPV. Some HPV types can cause ordinary and genital warts, but rarely cause cancer. Other HPV types can cause cancer of the cervix, and some other rare cancers (e.g., penis, vulva, anus, or mouth). Most HPV infections resolve without producing harm. Most women with HPV will clear the infection and will not develop cervical cancer.

  • HPV is very common - about three out of every four people – males and females – who have had sex have been exposed to HPV at some point in their lives.
  • Usually there are no symptoms and people do not know they have HPV. This makes it hard to know when and how you were exposed to the virus.
  • The infection usually goes away on its own within two years. However, in some cases an HPV infection may persist.
  • Sometimes infection with HPV, whether or not it is a cancer-causing type of HPV, causes cells on the cervix to become abnormal.
  • HPV infections and these early cell changes usually cause no symptoms and would go undetected without a Pap test.
  • Persistence of a cancer-causing type of HPV infection can, over a number of years (10 years or more), slowly cause changes that can lead to cervical cancer unless found and treated.
  • The HPV test is currently not publicly funded.  CCO is actively working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to ensure the HPV test a fully-funded part of the Ontario Cervical Screening Program.
  • Until the HPV test is publicly funded, it is recommend that the Pap test be used for cervical cancer screening.
Last modified: Mon, Jun 15, 2015
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