Why it’s Essential to Get Vaccinated for HPV, Even During a Pandemic

One of the many unintended consequences of the pandemic is that the public has not made preventative healthcarea priority, creating a perfect storm for potential health and medical issues in the future.This is also true with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be contracted and spread by both men and women.

HPV vHPV is a common virus with more than 100 varieties.HPV can resolve on its own, but it can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer in both males and females later in life. The most common HPV-related cancers are ovarian and cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men and anal cancer in both women and men. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. All of these cancers are caused by HPV infections that did not go away and can take years to manifest after a person has contracted the virus.

The numbers are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV with about 14 million becoming infected each year. HPV causes about 35,900 of the 45,300 new cases of cancer each year.

There is no cure for HPV, which is why Broward Health medical professionals stress the importance of the vaccine. It is the most effective way to protect against the virus. 

“It is estimated that 80 percent ofmen and women who are sexually active will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives,”said Brian M. Slomovitz,M.D., a board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology and gynecologic oncology with the Broward Health Physician Group. “Most people are asymptomatic carriers and are unaware they have contracted the virus, unintentionally infecting their partners and causing the virus to thrive.”

HPV is similar to COVID-19 in that both are easily transmittable. However, HPV is spread through direct contact, most commonly during sexual activity whether anal, vaginal or oral sex. It is highly contagious and unlike COVID-19, there is currently a proven and widely accessible vaccine.

“We continue to treat many men who are suffering from a variety of throat, lip and neck cancers due to contracting the HPV virus earlier on in their lives,” said Ryan Sobel, M.D., head and neck oncologic surgeon at Broward Health. “The best offense is a good defense. It’s unfortunate as these life-threatening cancers could have been easily prevented with a vaccination.”

For information of Broward Health’s gynecological oncology services, please call 954-355-4345 or visit BrowardHealth.org/GynOnc.