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For those who have not yet heard of the term HPV, it’s time to start familiarising yourself. It stands for Human Papillomavirus, and it is responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancers in women.

Yes, it is a sexually transmitted virus, but if you think you’re safe from HPV just because you’re not sexually active, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

1. HPV does not discriminate between genders

HPV affects both men and women. HPV commonly causes cervical cancer and vaginal cancer in women, but it can lead to penile cancer in men as well! Other cancers caused by HPV include cancers of the head and neck.

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Because it is a sexually transmitted virus, you stand a higher chance of contracting HPV if you have multiple sexual partners, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get even if you have one long-term partner.

The virus can lie dormant in the body for many, many years, so you or your partner may have contracted it unknowingly all those years ago.

2. It’s transmitted through other ways besides intercourse

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, but that doesn’t mean that you are only exposed to it if you engage in intercourse. The virus can be passed through anal or oral sex as well, or in any activity that involves close genital contact.

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Even acts like fondling and petting can also prompt the transmission of HPV!

3. Condoms aren’t 100% safe

While condoms do help to lower the risk of contracting HPV, don’t get complacent – they aren’t 100% safe! As mentioned before, the virus is transmitted through close genital contact, and condoms aren’t able to provide full coverage of the genital area.

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Even with condoms, there is still a risk of contracting the virus.

4. You may not look or feel any different

The most visible symptom of HPV is genital warts, but in most cases HPV does not show any signs or symptoms.

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To protect yourself, it is important to visit your doctor for a HPV test or a Pap smear regularly. These tests are meant for early detection of HPV and cervical cancer respectively.

Even with these measures in place, it’s still recommended to go for HPV vaccinations in order to prevent infections of certain sub-types of HPV.

5. It’s never too late to get vaccinated

Different types of HPV vaccines protect against different strains of HPV, so it’s always good to be protected against as many strains as possible.

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It is best recommended to get your HPV vaccinations before any exposure to sexual activity, but you can still get your vaccines even after. Even if you have already have been exposed to one sub-type of HPV from a previous sexual encounter, vaccines can help protect you against the other strains of the virus.

Cervical cancer is the 10th most common cancer among Singaporean women, and is one of the few cancers that are preventable by vaccination. Take charge, take precautions, but don’t take the risk. Book an appointment now and go for your HPV vaccinations!

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