Pre-teens, teens, and young adults of both sexes can get vaccinated against HPV. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that young women get vaccinated against the virus to prevent cervical cancer. The CDC also recommends the vaccination for young men for two reasons: to help prevent its transmission to women, and to help prevent some of the 7,000 HPV-related cancers that occur in men each year. The two available vaccines provide excellent protection against sexually transmitted HPV.
Vaccination won’t help older people (those beyond their early 20s) or the millions of people already infected with HPV. The use of condoms can prevent the spread of the virus during penile-vaginal, penile-anal, or penile-oral sex. The use of a dental dam (a thin piece of latex) can help prevent the spread of the virus during oral-vaginal sex.
If you’ve been infected with the virus, diagnosing an HPV-related oral cancer as early as possible greatly improves the chance of cure. See your doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms for more than two to three weeks:
- A sore in your mouth or on your tongue that doesn’t heal
- Persistent pain with swallowing or sore throat
- A lump in your neck that persists