HPV Questions

Posted by betsyp @betsyp, Jul 30, 2020

I'm surprised to find no discussions about HPV here. I am a 58 year old woman who was recently diagnosed with HPV-18, one of the two strains of HPV that can lead to cancer. Luckily my pap was clear so no problems yet. I have done lots of reading to get my questions answered, but I haven't found definitive answers to some of my questions. Experts talk about HPV being so common that the vast majority of adults will have it at some point, so it is not worth worrying about, but that advice seems problematic with HPV-16 and 18. Women can get regular testing along with pap smears to see if there are cellular changes but there isn't testing for men. My boyfriend is scared by the possibility of getting cancer, so he broke up with me. I can understand his reaction, although I think it is likely he gave it to me and/or that I have already transmitted it to him. So while many strains of HPV are "no big deal," HPV-18 is a very big deal to me. I have read repeatedly that HPV usually clears from the body within two years. Here are my questions: 1) If I find that my HPV-18 has cleared and I have negative results, does this mean that I won't transmit it to someone else? 2) Is it gone or just dormant, and I may have a recurrence? 3) Am I still more likely to develop cervical (or other) cancer? 4) What are my ethical obligations to tell a partner, both while I test positive and later if I test negative? I feel like this diagnosis means an end to my sexual life, as I wouldn't want to give this to anyone. And the kicker is that safe sex doesn't even prevent HPV transmission, as it is transmitted by skin contact. I hope someone can point me to peer-reviewed studies or other credible resources that answer my questions. Thanks.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Infectious Diseases Support Group.


Hi @betsyp Thank you for joining Mayo Connect and welcome! You are correct in saying there are not many groups currently discussing Human papillomavirus (HVP) right now, but that's not to say people are not experiencing it. You will notice that I added your discussion to the women's health group and the men's health group to reach more members in related discussions. I understand your heightened concerned and that it is and can be a very big deal for people diagnosed with HPV-16 or 18. I am also so sorry that your boyfriend broke up with you because of this. One of the most important aspects of coping with HPV, and helping partners develop a good understanding of the virus, is getting factual information and avoiding myths and hype. It may also be a good idea to have resources to which you can direct him, so you know he can turn to trustworthy sources for information. (National Cervical Cancer Coalition NCCC). I highly recommend seeking out brochures or a second opinion because even though having been diagnosed with HPV 18 you were recently cleared, correct? Even in people whose HPV persists, the time from infection with a high-risk HPV type to the development of cancer is generally measured in years IF at all. Most specialists I have seen say upwards of 10 and that is only if the infection persists. I hope some of the information below will ease your mind a little.

This is a great go to page for sharing real and important, sometimes overlooked information about HVP.

I highly recommend reading this article and scrolling to the section labeled "HPV Is Common, Yet Commonly Misunderstood" https://www.everydayhealth.com/hpv/what-are-hpv-16-18/

In this study it shows that 92% of the US specimens tested positive at one time or another.

I will continue to help you research and if I find additional information I am more than happy to share. Betsy, can you tell me, did you doctor find this diagnosis while performing a routine PAP or were you having symptoms?

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I have hpv also diabetes with it is that worse on the hpv ty Diana


betsyp, you are not alone. Anyone who is 50 and older is likely to have or be carriers for the HPV virus. Growing up, we had very little knowledge (if any) about it and there was no vaccine. The last stat I read, it said something like 88% of the population have been exposed. This virus can remain dormant in some people for decades and you will NEVER be able to know where you acquired it as the list of possibilities is massive unless both are virgins & have not had any sexual activities before having intercourse. The passage of this virus goes back to who did he or you have sex with, who all that person had sex with and who all those people had sex with & etc. This is true for Herpes Type 2 as well. Many are carriers and it can be dormant for a very long time.

You are correct about Types 16 and 18. Just continue to have your regular checkups. Men rarely have symptoms from HPV. Men of our generation and older have suddenly had a significant increase in head and neck cancers. Their age and the population's prevalence of HPV led researchers to the discovery that oral sex with someone + for HPV is the culprit.

As you mentioned, HPV clears for most like other viruses; however, if you have a chronic medical condition or are on meds that cause you to be immunosuppressed, likely, you will never clear it. Unfortunately, I am immunosuppressed, have HPV (Type HR-Other) and have been fighting it for many years.

When it comes to relationships, I think it is best to educate the partner of the prevalence. For contact, they can wash their hands post-sexual activities and wear a condom if he is concerned. I personally do not perform or receive oral sex due to transmission which puts both of us at increased risk for head and neck cancers. I understand that there are oral condoms, but I have not looked into such.

I too am just starting a new relationship. Most guys understand with education and continue the relationship, but some are really shallow and will not. They will just contract it in their next relationship with their next partner who does not know or opts to not disclose her HPV status.

It truly does suck and is always in the back of my mind. I hope this was a bit helpful.

You are NOT alone.

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