Can HPV be Prevented and are there Treatment Options?
HPV infection prevention options focus on refraining from or limiting sexual activity in terms of numbers of partners and consistent use of condoms during all types of sexual activity including vaginal, anal and oral. There are no recommended treatments for HPV infection, which usually clears naturally, but there are options for treating genital warts and pre-cancerous lesions that develop after chronic infection.
Anogenital warts and precancerous lesions are currently the only two conditions that warrant treatment.1
Treatment options for anogenital warts include use of anti-tumor medications, cryotherapy or surgical removal.2 Without treatment, anogenital warts may resolve spontaneously, remain the same, or may increase in number and size.3 HPV testing of genital warts is not recommended because the results will not affect treatment.4
Treatment options for precancerous cervical cells often identified subsequent to a Pap test, include the following options: cryotherapy (a process to freeze and destroy the cells), laser therapy (use of light beam to remove or kill the cells), loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) (electric current is passed through a wired loop and used as a blade to excise abnormal cells) and conization (cone-shaped tissue sample is cut away by either a laser, a knife, or by use of the LEEP procedure). Only cells determined to be cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, grade 2 (CIN-2) or higher require treatment due to their higher than average potential of progression to cancer if left untreated. Screening for all women who have had CIN-2 or higher lesions should continue for at least 20 years.5
The FDA has approved three vaccines: Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9 for the prevention of HPV infection.6 Currently, only Gardasil 9, a 9-valent recombinant vaccine targeting HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, is available for use in the U.S.7
According to the CDC, in addition to recommending the HPV vaccine, prevention options include:8
- Abstaining from sexual activity (vaginal, anal, and oral).
- Using physical barriers, such as condoms, to reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
- Engaging in a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
Stories & Photos of Gardasil Vaccine Reactions
IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about HPV and the HPV vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
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1 CDC 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection. Jan 25, 2017.
2 CDC 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Anogenital Warts. Jun. 4, 2015
3 CDC Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Treatment and Care. Oct. 31, 2017
4 CDC 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Anogenital Warts. Jun. 4, 2015
5 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pap and HPV Testing. National Cancer Institute Sep. 9, 2014.
6 FDA Vaccines Licensed for Use in the United States. Mar 29, 2018.
7 CDC Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) What’s New with VISs. Mar 21, 2018
8 CDC. Human Papillomavirus. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.