What Is HPV?


Quick Answer

HPV is an acronym that stands for human papilloma virus, according to Cleveland Clinic. It is a common virus with around 100 different types affecting different areas of the body. Around 30 types affect the genital areas, with 13 of those being considered as high-risk HPV types that can cause cervical cancer.

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HPV commonly affects the genitals, says Cleveland Clinic. Around 5.5 million new genital HPV cases occur in the United States annually, with around 20 million infections active at any particular time. Up to 80 percent of all sexually active people have the infection at some time in their lives.

HPV is spread from person to person through direct contact with the skin of someone who is infected. This includes contact during traditional vaginal sex as well as oral and anal sex. Some HPV types cause genital warts, which are characterized by hard lumps on the skin that appear in the genital area.

There are many ways to diagnose HPV, including using a Pap test or via a colonoscopy. An HPV DNA test can also be taken; this test involves examining genetic material from tissue. The condition is not curable, but most infections clear up spontaneously. Treatment, when pursued, includes cryosurgery, laser therapy or prescription creams, among others.

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