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HPV: Dispelling The Top Five Myths

Phelps Hospital's Dr. Janice C. Teixeira explains facts versus fiction when it comes to HPV and the HPV vaccine.
Phelps Hospital's Dr. Janice C. Teixeira explains facts versus fiction when it comes to HPV and the HPV vaccine. Photo Credit: Phelps Hospital

HPV — Human papillomavirus — is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, affecting 80 million — about one in four — Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. In most cases, HPV goes away without medical treatment and does not cause any health problems. But some types can cause health problems including genital warts or cancers. The HPV vaccine provides the best form of protection against the virus, as well as certain diseases (including cancers) that it causes when given in the recommended age groups. There are many myths about the HPV vaccine as well as the virus, so our Janice C. Teixeira, D.O., of the Obstetrics & Gynecology department at Phelps, helped us set the record straight.

Myth: The only people at risk for HPV are those who have casual sex with multiple partners.

Fact: Any person who is sexually active, even if they’ve only had one sexual partner, can contract HPV. Most sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection at some point in their lives. Even men and women who are in monogamous relationships can acquire or transmit HPV, often without knowing.

Myth: Children are too young to need the vaccine.

Fact: All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated, as should males and females who did not receive the vaccine when they were younger, including:

• Boys and men through age 21, and girls and women through age 26

• Young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26

• Young adults who are transgender through age 26

• Young adults through age 26 with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV), or who are taking immunosuppressing medications such as prednisone or other steroids

Myth: HPV is treatable.

Fact: No treatment exists for HPV, although healthcare professionals can treat precancerous lesions and genital warts associated with HPV infections.

Myth: After age 12, it’s too late to get vaccinated against HPV.

Fact: The HPV vaccine can still be effective if received up to the age of 45. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people who did not receive the vaccine as children get it before age 26, when it is most effective.

Myth: The HPV vaccine has dangerous side effects.

Fact: The HPV vaccine is a safe, FDA-approved drug that prevents against genital warts and several types of cancer. In clinical tests, common side effects include pain, redness or swelling and possible fainting. In addition to protecting against infection, the HPV vaccine prevents transmission of the virus. If you are severely allergic to yeast, however, you should not receive Gardasil 9.

For more information about the Gardasil 9 vaccine, or to schedule a PAP test, you can make an appointment with a gynecologist at Phelps. Call (914) 233-3449 or click here.