HPV is the name given to a very common group of viruses.
There are many types of HPV, some of which are called “high risk” because they’re linked to the development of cancers, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck.
Other types can cause conditions like warts or verrucas.
High risk types of HPV can be found in more than 99% of cervical cancers.
There is also a significant association between HPV and some of the anal and genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck.
HPV infections do not usually cause any symptoms, and most people will not know they’re infected.
What are the different types of HPV and what do they do?
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and around 40 that affect the genital area.
HPV is very common and can be caught through any kind of sexual contact with another person who already has it. Most people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives and their bodies will get rid of it naturally without treatment. But some people infected with a high-risk type of HPV will not be able to clear it. Over time, this can cause abnormal tissue growth as well as other changes, which can lead to cancer if not treated.
High-risk types of HPV are linked to different types of cancer, including:
cancer of the penis
some cancers of the head and neck
Infection with other types of HPV may cause:
genital warts – small growths or skin changes on or around the genital or anal area; they’re the most common viral sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK
skin warts and verrucas – not on the genital area
warts on the voice box or vocal cords (laryngeal papillomas)
How is the HPV vaccine given?
The HPV vaccine is given as 2 injections into the upper arm spaced at least 6 months apart.
It’s important to have both doses of the vaccine to be properly protected.
If you missed the HPV vaccine offered in school Year 8, you can get it for free up until your 25th birthday.
Men who have sex with men (MSM), and trans men and trans women who are eligible for the vaccine, will also need 2 doses of the vaccine given 6 months apart.
MSM who are HIV positive or have a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) need to have 3 doses of the HPV vaccine.
If you need 3 doses of the vaccine:
the 2nd dose should be given at least 1 month after the 1st dose
the 3rd dose should be given at least 3 months after the 2nd dose
It’s important to have all vaccine doses to be properly protected.