Cervical cancer and HPV are related in some ways, but misconceptions about both of them are common.
Unfortunately, misinformation about the vaccine has led to an international decline in vaccination rates.
According to the WHO, only 20 percent of school-aged kids in Denmark received the vaccine in 2016, as compared to 90 percent five years ago. Less than three percent got the vaccine in Japan. Ireland reported a 50 percent vaccination rate in 2019, compared with 80 percent two years prior. There were no policy changes or warnings about the vaccine in those countries.
Myth #7: the HPV vaccine can cause hypersexual activity.
False. In fact, having the vaccine available for preteens allows them to learn more about sexuality and to be sure of when they really feel ready to start a sex life.
Myth #6: you must have sexual intercourse to get HPV.
False. Transmission happens through skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as through contact with bodily fluids or mucous membranes.
Myth #5: STIs, condoms and dental dams can protect against HPV.
These can help to reduce the risk of contracting HPV, but it can infect areas not covered by a condom. So, condoms may not fully protect against HPV.
Myth #4: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t have HPV.
Often, HPV infection does not cause any noticeable symptoms or health problems. In fact, 90 percent of HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away on their own within two years, according to the CDC. However, because the virus is still in a person’s body during this time, that person may unknowingly transmit HPV (source: Healthline).
Myth #3: If you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you can skip your Pap test.
Absolutely false. Because no vaccine prevents all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, vaccinated women ages 21 to 29 should still receive Pap tests every three years.
Women aged 30 to 64 also should get a Pap test and an HPV test every five years. The HPV test checks your cervix for the virus able to develop abnormal cells that lead to cervical cancer. It may show that more frequent screening is needed.
Women aged 65 or older should discuss their individual need for screening with their doctor. (Source: MD Anderson experts — Lois Ramondetta, M.D., a professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, and Erich Sturgis, M.D., a professor in Head and Neck Surgery and Epidemiology)
Myth #2: only women can get HPV.
HPV is the most common viral sexually transmitted infection in the world. It can cause genital warts in men, just as in women.
Myth #1: the vaccine can cause cancer
The HPV vaccine does not cause HPV infections or cancer. The HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus, which is not infectious.
It is important to be aware of a family history of cancer and not just because of shared genes but because we also share an environment and many daily practices with our family.
We often eat the same things, move about the same and even have the same views on life. If you have a family history of cancer, keep in mind that while you can’t change your genes, you can make choices every day to reduce your risk.