Here’s a statistic: 99% of cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV for short. Another statistic? According to The Independent, there were 3,224 cases of cervical cancer in this country during 2014. 890 of those cases proved to be fatal.
That’s not all.
Figures reveal that in the decade between 2002 and 2012, oral cancer cases increased by 40%, with two thirds of cases occurring in men. Following his diagnosis of throat cancer, Hollywood A-lister Michael Douglas allegedly attributed his condition to years of oral sex. Whilst this statement understandably raised a few eyebrows, his claims were not totally unfounded. The upsurge in oral cancer cases may well be related to high-risk strains of HPV that are transmittable through oral sex. In short, it’s not just girls that are at risk from HPV.
Before we go on, let’s just make sure we are clear on exactly what HPV is.
There are over 100 strains of the highly infectious virus which can, in some cases, be transmitted while practicing safe sex. HPV can cause genital warts as well as various cancers in both men and women and, according to a recent study in the United States, almost half (42%) of American adults carry the virus.
So, if both men and women can carry the virus, surely everyone gets vaccinated, right? Not quite.
In 2008, under mounting pressure to combat the threat of cervical cancer, the government introduced a national HPV immunisation programme into UK schools. The vaccine, Gardasil, was made available across the UK for girls aged between 12 and 17 (11-17 in Scotland), though only girls in year eight at secondary school (aged 11-13 in Scotland) are routinely offered the vaccination.
Gardasil protects against the two types of HPV that are responsible for most cervical cancer cases in the UK. The vaccine also guards against the two strains of HPV that are responsible for 90% of genital warts. Though some experts have claimed that a routine vaccination in boys could reduce the number of cases of both cervical and oral cancers, it is girls, not boys, that are offered the vaccine by the NHS. To contextualize this, boys in Australia have received HPV vaccinations since 2013.
So, what about HPV testing?
Regardless of gender, if you are sexually active Better2Know can test you for HPV. With just a simple swab sample, Better2Know’s HPV test will detect up to 15 high-risk and 5 low-risk strains of the virus. We also offer a PAP Smear test for women but for complete clarity, Better2Know recommends that women choose our combined PAP Smear and HPV screen, the details of which are on our website. It should also be noted that, in some cases, the body can naturally rid itself of HPV infection.
The debate surrounding male HPV vaccinations will run and run, but when it comes to testing there should be no discussion. Cancer can’t be caught but infections like HPV can certainly increase your risk, so stay safe and get tested. It’s always Better2Know. To find out more visit our webpage.
Lines are open 24/7. Click to call.