Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of common viruses that can cause warts. Most of them are harmless, but some can put you at risk for cancer. These cancerous types affect the genital area and one can contract them through sexual contact with an infected partner. They are classified as either low-risk or high-risk. Low-risk HPV can cause genital warts. High-risk HPV can lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus in women. In men, it can lead to cancer of the anus and penis.
The signs and symptoms that appear vary according to the type of HPV infection one might have contracted. The five most important HPV symptoms to watch out for are:
: These usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like cauliflower. Warts can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner — even if the infected partner has no signs of genital warts. In women, these warts appear most commonly on the vulva but may also occur near the anus, on the cervix, or in the vagina. In men, these may appear on the penis and scrotum or around the anus.
Pre-malignant genital lesions
: Certain HPV infections can cause cellular changes that result in precancerous lesions. These abnormalities are most often detected by a Pap test — a simple procedure that involves collecting cells from the cervix or vagina for a laboratory examination.
Oral and upper respiratory lesions
: Some HPV infections may cause warts and other lesions on one’s tongue, tonsils, soft palate, larynx, and in the nose. They can sometimes block the airway, causing a hoarse voice or trouble breathing.
: Symptoms of this type of cancer often do not appear until the cancer is quite advanced. For this reason, it is important for women to get themselves regularly screened for cervical cancer.
: Common warts are non-malignant skin growths that usually appear on one’s hands, fingers, or around one’s fingernails. These warts appear as rough, raised bumps. They are considered a nuisance because of their appearance. They may also be painful and susceptible to injury or bleeding.
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