HPV Explained

Get the facts about HPV, and learn why it's important we talk about it.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. Around 4 in 5 men and women will have HPV at some point in their lives.

But our research has found that many people in Yorkshire are unaware of what HPV is and how it is spread. We’ve also discovered that 1 in 2 people in the region believe there is a stigma associated with HPV.

HPV Explained aims to reduce stigma and address misconceptions about the virus by sharing the facts and encouraging conversations.
 

 

Key facts about HPV

  • HPV is a virus that can be spread through any sexual activity, protected or unprotected.
     
  • HPV infections are common and have no symptoms. 4 in 5 men and women will have HPV in their lifetime.
     
  • Many people become infected with HPV shortly after becoming sexually active.
     
  • Sometimes HPV can lie dormant for many years and then become active again.
     
  • It is not always possible to work out where HPV has come from and doesn’t mean that a partner has been unfaithful.
     
  • Our immune system can normally clear an HPV infection by itself, but in a small number of cases, the infection doesn’t clear and can cause the cells of the cervix to change over time. These might develop into cervical cancer if not monitored or treated.

HPV and cervical screening

  • Cervical screening plays an important role in preventing cancer. It can detect early changes in cells, allowing them to be treated before they become cancer.
     
  • In 2019, changes were made to the cervical screening process. Screening samples are now checked for HPV first.
     
  • Testing for HPV first means that screening can be tailored to your individual risk. Those with a positive HPV result are at the highest risk of cervical cancer and will be screened more regularly.

Who should attend cervical screening?

Women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should attend cervical screening when invited, including those who have had the HPV vaccine, those in long-term relationships, and those who are not currently sexually active.

If you have been invited for cervical screening, contact your GP practice today to arrange an appointment.


 

Kelly's experience

Kelly Wilson from Grimsby found out she had HPV when she was 27.

“I went for cervical screening, and it showed I had HPV and the cell changes it had caused were very close to becoming cancer. They needed to be treated as soon as possible. I had a general anaesthetic, and they removed the abnormal cells.

“To say I was frightened is an understatement. I was young and very much in a mindset of these things don’t happen to people like me.

“We need to step up and speak out and say these things are not taboo. Cervical screening takes just a few minutes and can save your life.”

 

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