Have a question about HPV or HPV throat cancer? It can be confusing so send us your good questions and we will do our best to have them answered by our network of doctors or from trusted sources such as the CDC.

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Heidi T.:

Could I have been getting this virus over and over, or can you only get it one time?
Yes, it is possible to get re-infected with the virus.

If I kept getting this virus many times,  would it be harder for my body to fight it?
Yes, the increased number of infections, increases the possibility of persistent infection.

Can it be transferred by French kissing?
No data is present to suggest this.

If my pap smear comes out normal – – can I still have the virus in my mouth? Yes.

Ellen S.:
I’m looking for information regarding statistics on recurrence of HPV 16 throat cancer.

HPVANDME: Dr. Sara Pai, one of our consulting physicians, says there is a 20% recurrence rate in cases of HPV+ head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Dr. Pai is a co-author of a 2013 NIH study which describes risk factors for recurrence. The research found: ” … a 5-year OS (overall survival) rate of 89%, which was reduced in older patients, those with advanced clinical T-classification, and current tobacco users, and an RFS (relapse-free survival) of rate 86%, which was reduced in patients with advanced clinical T-classification, current/former alcohol users, and unmarried patients. (T describes the size of the original (primary) tumor and whether it has invaded nearby tissue.)

Lynn W.:
Should young women(mid to late 20’s) who were previously vaccinated with the original HPV vaccine (in their teens)be revaccinated with the 9-HPV vaccine?

HPVANDME: Dr. Bob Jacobson replies, “From a public health standpoint, no. From a personal standpoint, the individual may appreciate the protection but may lack insurance coverage and have to pay out of pocket for the additional 3 doses.

HPV2 and HPV4 cover 90% of the HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer but only about 70% of the HPV-caused cervical cancer. The addition of strains with HPV9 cover another 20% or so of the HPV that causes cervical cancer.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) approved the use of HPV9 but not in preference to HPV2 or HPV4. We hope in a future meeting to get guidance from the ACIP on what to do with patients who already completed 3 doses of HPV2 or HPV4 as well as patients who completed the three dose series starting with 1 or 2 doses HPV2 or HPV4 and then completing it with 1 or 2 doses of HPV9.

Merck will eventually stop making HPV4 and only make HPV9.”

Becky S.:
If HPV is laying dormant can it be transferred to another person?

HPVANDME: Dr. Sara Pai says, “If HPV is in a dormant state, the virus is unlikely to be transferred to another person because infectious viral particles need to be generated which can then be passed onto other individuals.”

Can HPV be destroyed by her (my partner’s) immune system and is it dangerous for us to remain sexually active, will I continue to infect her with HPV every time we have sex possibly increasing the risk of throat and cervical cancer?

HPVANDME: Most people’s immune systems will clear the virus in two years, some people’s bodies don’t recognize HPV and their bodies can harbor the virus for years, even decades. Researchers are studying why some people’s immune systems respond while others’ don’t recognize HPV. Those who can’t clear the virus could be at more risk for cancer. If you are HPV+, you could reinfect her even if her body later clears the virus.

Janet’s husband:
My wife has HPV but we haven’t had intercourse in over 20 years! Is that possible?

HPVANDME: I am not a doctor but the ones whom I consult with say yes, while most people’s immune systems will clear the virus in two years, some people’s bodies don’t recognize HPV. When that occurs, the virus can remain in one’s body for a long time, even decades, and sometimes emerge in a form of cancer. Much of the ongoing immunological research is trying to figure out why some people’s bodies can’t recognize HPV and how to activate that immunological response. Clearly those who cannot clear the virus can be more at risk for cancer.

L. Anthony:
Do insurance companies cover it only if you’re in the age range of 9-26?

HPVANDME: Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, offers an assistance program. You may contact Merck to see if you qualify: http://www.gardasil.com/how-to-get-gardasil/assistance-programs/ and http://www.merckhelps.com/  I don’t know of specific insurance companies that might cover the vaccine for adults and it would also depend on your individual plan.

Dr. Bob Jacobson, Mayo Clinic, talks about the HPV vaccine for young adults here.

Are there clinics where I can go get the vaccine to cut down on costs, or do I have to go straight to my gynecologist?

HPVANDME: Some Planned Parenthood clinics offer the HPV vaccine; you would need to call them to see if your local clinic offers it or not.  http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv Here’s more info that may also be useful: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-young-women.htm

Pam B., nurse:
“Hi, if a patient is not sure they received the HPV vaccine (and there’s no documentation) can you administer it again?”

Answer from Dr. Bob Jacobson, Mayo Clinic:
If the patient is otherwise still eligible by age criteria etc and the patient cannot recall and there is no documentation, yes, the clinician should proceed. If it turns out that the vaccines were redundant, they pose no harm in their repetition.

Raquel: How do people get HPV? Can HPV be transmitted through bottled water?
Sandra: My question seems like it should be an easy one to find and answer to, and yet I’ve not been able to. Is HPV only transmitted sexually, or are there other ways? Both my husband and I have never had sex with anyone else, so we are wondering if we need to have any concerns over throat cancer (or cervical cancer) or not.

Answer: According to the CDC … http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/common/ai/ai.pdf

  • You can get HPV by having sexual contact – like vaginal and anal sex— with someone who has it.
  • Any man or woman who has ever been sexually active can have HPV and pass it on to their partner.
  • You can have HPV, even if years have passed since you were sexually active.

You CANNOT get HPV from:

  • Toilet seats
  • Kissing on the mouth, hugging, or holding hands
  • Being unclean (bad hygiene)
  • Sharing food or utensils
  • Swimming in pools or hot tubs
  • Family history (heredity)

HPVANDME.ORG has received many questions about ailments thought to be caused by receiving the HPV vaccine. While each case contains individual and specific circumstances, we posed the concern to Dr. Bob Jacobson, pediatrician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic who is a proponent of the HPV vaccine.

Answer from Dr. Bob Jacobson, Mayo Clinic:
When a bad event follows in timing , hours, days, weeks, or months after an intervention, we need to keep in mind that this does not implicate the intervention as causal with any degree of evidence. What we need are controlled trials and studies of exposing persons to the intervention and comparing their outcomes good and bad to similar persons who did not receive the intervention. We now have such studies (in thousands and thousands pre licensure) and in tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands post licensure. We have no data that supports such untoward events as claimed in the report linked below. (Dr. Jacobson is referring to a report from a parent who claims the HPV vaccine caused her daughter to become ill.)

Anthony: “My girlfriend has been diagnosed with vaginal HPV 16 & 18. No cancer and we are hoping it will clear. I understand that, under these circumstances, male on female oral sex is not advisable. However, is there any risk of infecting me through female on male oral sex? I cannot seem to find that answer unless there has been a prior throat cancer diagnosis.”

Answer from Dr. Sara Pai, Harvard/MGH:
It is really getting to the question whether woman who are infected vaginally are at increased risk of oral HPV infection as well. This needs to be further studied before we definitely know that answer.

Paul: “Is HPV akin in nature to, say chicken pox, such that the more exposure you have the worse the infection? In other words, is the likelihood of becoming infected lower if male to female oral sex was limited to just a couple of occasions as opposed to a greater volume or frequency? And, even if infected, does the likelihood of the virus clearing improve with such a limited interaction? ”

Answer from Dr. Sara Pai, Harvard/MGH:
This question really addresses the question of immune clearance of the virus. It only requires one encounter for a person to get infected. The question becomes how well does a person clear the infection. 90% of the people exposed to the virus can clear the infection within 2 years. However, 10% of people are unable to clear the infection and we are unable to predict which of the 10% of the population will not be able to clear the infection.