January is Cervical health awareness month, an opportunity for health organizations around the world to raise awareness of how women can help prevent cervical cancer and protect themselves from the HPV virus.
With so much stigma about sexually contracted diseases, and fear that having HPV will lead to cervical cancer, HPV is something that is rarely discussed amongst friends, family and acquaintances. As a result, few of us aware of just how common the HPV virus is. The fact is that most cases of cervical cancer are the result of certain strains of the HPV virus. However, what many people fail to understand (particularly those who have been diagnosed with the virus) is that most people with HPV don’t develop cancer.
The majority of men and women with HPV don’t even know that they have it; and most cases of the virus clear up on their own within 2 years of diagnosis.
We are going to take a look at some of the myths about the human papillomavirus and see if we can make things a little clearer this Cervical Health Awareness Month.
MYTH: I am the only one with HPV.
FACT: Studies show that HPV is much more common than most of us think. In fact it is estimated that 3 out of every 4 Americans aged between 15 and 49 have had the virus at some point in their lives, or do have it now. In a group of 4 of your friends, there is likely to be only one friend who has never had the virus.
MYTH: If you get an STI you must be promiscuous
FACT: Despite the fact that 19 million Americans develop a sexually transmitted infection (STI each year, we still think that only people who sleep around, have a different lifestyle to us, contract STIs. Whilst it is true that those who have had sexual contact with larger numbers of people will have a greater risk of contracting an STI like HPV, the truth is that many people with HPV are in long term, monogamous relationships. One study showed that 21% of middle aged, middle class adults with children had cervical HPV, whilst another study showed that 80% of people who had had 4 or fewer sexual partners had had the virus at some point.
MYTH: Someone’s cheated
FACT: More often than not, it is the woman who is diagnosed with HPV as the result of a regular PAP screening. This can cause serious problems in long term relationships because very few people are aware of the ability of the HPV virus to lay dormant. Most people don’t realise they have been infected with the HPV virus. There are few or no symptoms and the fact is that you can develop HPV months, years or decades after you first contracted it. It is impossible to pin down when you contracted the virus; whether you are married, in a monogamous relationship, have abstained from sex for years or in a casual relationship, all you can be sure of is that you contracted the virus at some point in your sexually active life.
By getting tested you can prevent cervical cancer. Studies showed that half of women diagnosed with cervical cancer had never had a smear test, and another 10% had not had a test within the last 5 years. By getting checked regularly you can do your best to reduce your chances of developing cancer.
For more information about Cervical Health Awareness Month take a look at the information provided here, or Contact us to see if Angeles Health can help you with the information you need.