While most cases of HPV clear up on their own, some strains lead to genital warts or to cancer of the cervix, anus and penis -- among others. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer, causing an estimated 500,000 new cases and 275,000 deaths each year.
Although it is the most common STI and one that can, in rare instances, have dire consequences, there are many ways to reduce your individual risk for both the virus and the associated conditions it causes. Two vaccinations protect against four of the most high-risk strains, for example. And condom use and regular screening can further prevent infection.
Despite education efforts and media focus, many misconceptions about the disease pervade. So, to honor Cervical Health Awareness Month, we've compiled eight of the most common -- and most damaging -- misconceptions about the virus. You owe it to yourself and your future partners to read on:
An Abnormal Pap Test Means You Have High-Risk HPVPap tests are the commonly accepted screening to prevent cervical cancer. A doctor scrapes a cell culture from a woman's cervix and then examines the cells for signs of abnormality.
But just because a few of those cells appear abnormal, requiring further screening, doesn't necessarily mean that you've got a cancer-causing strain of HPV -- that's only one potential cause.
"The difference could be due to local irritation, a non-HPV infection, a low-risk HPV type, or even a mistake in the preparation of the cell sample," writes the American Sexual Health Association.
Condom Use Prevents HPV
Oral Sex Is Safe From Cancer Risk
HPV Vaccine Means I Don't Have To Worry About Cervical Cancer
HPV Is A Serious, Life-Long Condition
Genital Warts Can Be Pre-Cancerous
The HPV Vaccine Is For Girls
Girls Who Receive An HPV Vaccine Will Be More Sexually Active
Reblogged from HuffPost Healthy Living