HPV can be spread from person to person. One of the most common ways in which it is spread is through sex; vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner can result in infection. Research shows that as many as three out of every four people who have sex will get a genital HPV Infection at some time in their lives.
HPV Infection is asymptomatic which means that an infected person will have no signs of infection although some HPV types do cause genital warts. Genital warts usually appear on the skin of the genitals and surrounding areas and are usually treated with topical creams or removed using lasers.
A HPV Infection has been linked to cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus and penis. Genital warts, however, are not linked to cancer.
For women, cervical cancer remains the main concern. It is important to understand that cervical cancer usually takes a long time to develop. This process starts when HPV infected cells in the lining of the cervix start to become abnormal. Over time, these abnormal changes become severe enough to be classified as "pre-cancerous lesions" or "dysplasias". If left untreated, these lesions may eventually turn into cancer of the cervix. It is equally important to understand that most HPV Infections are cleared by a healthy immune system and even a good proportion of dysplasias will go away without treatment. Consequently, the only way to be sure that your cervix is healthy is through regular pap smear screenings.
Most abnormal pap smear tests are actually the result of mildly abnormal changes in the lining of the cervix or vagina. Your healthcare provider will recommend follow-up in the form of a repeat pap smear or colposcopy.