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Santé Montréal

HPV (Human papilloma virus)

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Human papilloma virus (HPV) is one of the most widespread viruses in the world. Between 70% to 80% of the population will be infected by HPV through their lifetime. There are almost a hundred types of HPV that can infect different parts of the body.

You can be infected with more than one type of HPV at a time, and more than once during your lifetime.

HPV is the cause of almost 100% of cervical cancers and can also cause anal and genital warts.

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Most of the time, someone who is infected with HPV has no symptoms or lesions and can spread the virus without knowing it. Some types of HPV cause anal and genital warts (also called condylomas) that can be rather unpleasant and embarrassing and can require painful treatments and several visits to the doctor. In most people, the infection disappears by itself with time.

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When to Consult

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In certain cases, the infection can continue for months or years. This occurs especially with HPV types 16 and 18, which can infect the cells of the cervix and cause precancerous lesions. In Québec, about 68,000 women must be treated by specialists every year due to anomalies detected by a cervical cancer test (Pap test). When they go undetected, pre-cancerous lesions can become cancerous over a number of years. HPV types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancers. Each year in Québec, some 325 women learn they have cervical cancer and 80 women die of it. Other forms of cancer are connected to HPV, but they are rare in Québec.

Content adapted from Vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV), What is HPV?, Quebec Health and Social Services Agency

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Protection and prevention

How to avoid HPV and its complications?

  • Through vaccination: to prevent HPV types associated with cervical cancer and genital warts;
  • Through screening (Pap test): to detect abnormal cells in the cervix;
  • By reducing the number of sex partners: the higher the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of getting HPV;
  • Condoms reduce the risk of HPV transmission and should always be used when having sex. However, since they do not cover the skin around the genitals, HPV can still be transmitted.

To find out more about HPV Vaccine:
Read the FAQ - HPV Vaccine. The Direction de santé publique (DSP) has also produced an audio clip on HPV Vaccine, in seven languages: 

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Risk factors

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Help and Resources

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People at Risk

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Dernière mise à jour le : 2015.05.22