What is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) represents a family of very common viruses that are passed on during sex. Most people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. If you smoke, it can prevent the infection from clearing up.

There are over 100 types of HPV and most do not cause any problems. They are known by a number, for example, 1, 2, 3, 4… The two most common high-risk HPVs are 16 and 18. They are responsible for most of the abnormal high grade changes that are a risk for cervical cancer. HPV 6 and 11 are low-risk types that can cause genital warts.

For women, ongoing HPV infections can cause abnormal changes in the lining of the cervix. These changes, if left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV Virus. HPV has also been strongly linked to a number of other cancers in men and women including cancers of the anus, mouth and throat, vulva, vagina and penis.

In Ireland, approximately 265 women a year will be diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer.  Most of these cancers could potentially be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

Irish Cancer Society Logo221+ Patient Support Group thanks the Irish Cancer Society for permission to use the text of their booklet Cervical Cancer, What You Should Know
and acknowledges the contribution of the original authors of the booklet.