Ask the Pro: How to Best Protect Yourself Against HPV

Lines of defense

by SHFamily | Thu, January 25, 2018

Dr Nancy Lu, Gynecologist at DeltaHealth Hospital Shanghai, talks to us about HPV and how to best protect ourselves.

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that may infect the skin and mucous membranes. There are more than 100 different types of HPV that are spread through skin-to-skin contact, mainly through sexual encounters. Most people who are sexually active will get an HPV infection in their lifetime, and it can occur even when people do not have sexual intercourse.

What diseases are caused by HPV?

HPV can cause the following diseases: warts on the hands, feet, genitals and around the anus; also cancer of the cervix, anus, vagina, vulva, penis, mouth, and throat.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by abnormal cells on the cervix growing or spreading to other parts of the body. Cervical cancer is the second-most common gynecologic cancer and one of the leading causes of cancer-related death for women. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by a persistent infection of HPV.

Do I still need a cervical cancer screening test if I finished the HPV vaccination?

Yes. HPV vaccines do not protect against all HPV types that can cause cancer, nor do they cure existing HPV infections or HPV- caused disease. It is important that women who have received the HPV vaccine continue to have regular Pap tests.

What are the screening tests for cervical cancer?

Pap tests, along with HPV tests, are used in cervical cancer screenings, and both tests use cells taken from the cervix. Pap tests (or Pap smears) can detect abnormal cell changes on the cervix that might lead to cancer. HPV tests screen for the presence of the most common high-risk HPV types.

Why is cervical cancer screening important?

At an early stage, cervical cancer usually has no symptoms. The cervical cancer screening test can detect abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancerous.

Will all individuals infected with HPV exhibit symptoms?

No, most people with an HPV infection don’t have symptoms because their immune system fights the infection, clearing the virus from their bodies.

How can you prevent HPV infection?

Getting vaccinated, limiting your number of sexual partners, and using condoms during sexual activity.

Should my child get the HPV vaccination?

Yes. Both girls and boys should get the HPV vaccination. Vaccination works best when it is done before a person is sexually active. The ideal age for HPV vaccination is between 11 and 12, but it can be given between the ages of nine and 45.

Does the HPV vaccine cause any side effects?

The vaccine’s most common side effects are soreness and redness where the shot is given. Some may experience a low-grade fever.

What kind of HPV vaccine is available in China?

Cervarix is the only available vaccine in China. It can protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

To learn more, visit: