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What is HPV? Is the HPV vaccine 100 % effective in preventing cancer of the cervix?

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. It is a very common virus and consists of a group of 200 types of related viruses.

More than 40 HPV types can infect the genital areas of males and females. They are spread through intimate contact during vaginal, oral or anal sex. The infection is very common and nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. It happens more often in those who have many sexual partners or in those who have sex with an infected partner. But a person with only one partner can also get HPV infection.

Genital HPV types fall into two groups:

1. Low-risk HPVs, which cause skin warts on or around the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat.

2. High-risk HPVs, which can cause cancer of the cervix (neck of the womb) and other less common cancers —cancers of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis and throat. There are HPV vaccines available in preventing cancer of the cervix. (Refer HPV vaccines under Q&A in the website). But they do not protect against all HPV types of infection and will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. You should continue to get screened regularly with smear test (Pap smear).

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