For Teens: Understanding HPV and Genital Warts
HPV (human papilloma virus) spreads through skin contact. Some types of HPV cause genital warts. Other types put females at higher risk of cancer of the cervix. HPV is very common in both men and women. And it can’t be cured. But there are treatments to remove warts. Tests can also help spot warning signs of cervical cancer.
What to look for
Some types of HPV cause warts. Others don’t. You can also have more than one type of HPV at a time. Here are some things to look out for:
Painless lumps or bumps. Warts may be bumpy, cauliflower-shaped, or flat. They can appear in or around the genitals or anus.
An abnormal Pap smear. Over time, HPV can cause abnormal cell changes (dysplasia) on the cervix. If you have an abnormal Pap smear, a follow-up test may be done to look for HPV.
Warts can be removed by a doctor. But the virus stays in the body. Both males and females can pass on HPV even when warts aren’t visible. If a female has an abnormal Pap smear, she may have other tests or treatment. Regular checkups can help make sure the cervix is healthy.
If you don’t get treated
HPV can cause cell changes that increase the chance of getting cervical cancer. This health problem can sometimes cause death. If you are sexually active, you may need to be screened for cervical cancer by having a Pap test and an HPV test. At age 21, it's recommended women have a Pap test. A Pap test can help spot warning signs of cancer early on—when treatments work best. Discuss cervical cancer screening guidelines and tests with your doctor.
There is an HPV vaccination that helps protects both men and women from future infection with the types of HPV that are most likely to lead to cancer. Ask your doctor whether this vaccine is right for you.