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DrSugar Answers: Is HPV Curable?

DrSugar is in the house and he's here to answer your medical and health related questions. This week, the doc is talking about the confusing yet common subject, HPV, also known as warts.

Dear DrSugar,
Is HPV fully curable? I've gotten several answers from different places and I want to know which one is right.
Anxious for Answers

To see DrSugar's answer,


The short answer to your question is HPV is not curable, but fortunately HPV is now preventable. The topic of HPV has exploded onto the public health scene in the last few years with the advent of the HPV vaccine called Gardasil. HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus and is most commonly associated with warts (both genital and hand warts) and cervical cancer. To put things in perspective, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and HPV is thought to account for up to 90% of those cases. In the United States, about 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and around 3,000 die from the disease annually.

HPV is sexually transmitted and widely prevalent. It is estimated that one in four women of childbearing age is infected with HPV, and most of those do not know they are infected and do not have symptoms. Like many viruses, there is not a “cure” for HPV, but fortunately the majority of women with HPV will not develop warts or cervical cancer, and will do fine with regular pap smears to check for pre-cancerous cervical lesions. The only cure for HPV is to prevent its transmission in the first place. Safe sex practices such as condoms can help prevent the spread of HPV but are not 100% effective.

Gardasil is the first vaccine with the potential to drastically reduce the incidence of a cancer. It protects against the four most common HPV strains that cause 70% of genital warts and 90% of cervical cancer. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) currently recommends all women ages 9-26 be vaccinated to prevent HPV. Ideally, the vaccine should be given before the onset of sexual activity as it only prevents HPV and does not cure HPV strains that have already been contracted. Initial research suggests that women who have been sexually active may still benefit from vaccination. The theory is that if someone has already contracted one strain of HPV, the vaccine can prevent further transmission of the other common strains. I recommend talking to your doctor about whether Gardasil is right for you.

If you have a question for DrSugar send me private message here and I will send it his way.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.


Join The Conversation
gumdrops334 gumdrops334 9 years
I believe this is an issue that should be more openly discussed. I learned about sex ed, but I feel like this never came up in the "lessons". Schools need to be more responsible about the information they teach to students. I could go on for a long time about how incompetent most "sex educators" (aka health class teachers) but yeah it makes me angry.
lindholmka lindholmka 9 years
wow thanks for all the info! Very helpful and just the answers I was looking for!
emalove emalove 9 years
My sister-in-law had HPV and it led to cervical cancer...she's only 25 too. I knew it was very common too, and that most women don't even know they have it. Scary!
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
I heard you can get this even with a condom. :( And I heard your body can eventually "cure" (?) it for you if you abstain for about a year (hopefully, if you are healthy.) And I believe that it is totally 80% prevalent. It is like the flu of STDs. It is everywhere! I also heard that you can get it in your mouth or anus if you engage in oral or anal sex. Sorry, really gross, but just something to think about!!! I mean a Pap can detect it in your cervix, but what test can detect it in your mouth or other places?!?
mara_viajera mara_viajera 9 years
HPV treats every single person differently. I have had friends who were fine after one abnormal pap, and I had a friend who had to have a hysterectomy because the cells were too advanced. I have had it for several years, and I am not cured. I have had several abnormal paps, several colposcopies, and a LEEP. To correct ella1978, they don't sew you up. LEEP is the cauterization of the abnormal cells with electricity (no cutting and sewing) and it is safe for women who still have child bearing ahead of them unless the abnormal cells go past the cervix. The vaccine is your best protection. After all, you can pick up the warts strain by just being in close non-sexual contact with someone who has an outbreak. Keep using condoms, but get the vaccine and make sure all of your female relatives and friends get the vaccine too.
kia kia 9 years
What are the prospects of a HPV vaccine being administered to males entering their sexual maturity? Gardisil is approved for females and HPV is not easy to detect in males... but it takes two to tango. Could a vaccine for males help reduce the prevalence of HPV in a female population?
DrSugar DrSugar 9 years
The post has been changed. Thanks for the feedback!
DrSugar DrSugar 9 years
Regarding condoms being "100%" effective. That is definetly not true and is an incorrect statement on my part. Studies have shown that condom use can reduce the incidence of HPV but certainly not 100% of the time.
tree_tastic tree_tastic 9 years
HPV is curable - if it is caught in the early stages and depending on the strain. I know two people who have gotten rid of it. One even used alternative medicine. The key is to work with your doctor and can take many many visits.
brown_eyed_grrl brown_eyed_grrl 9 years
@gumdrops334: Exactly. Those were almost the exact words out of my mouth when I found out, "I'm not some stupid girl!" You can do everything right and still get it, and I think this post needs to be corrected so that FitSugar readers don't think that using a condom is "100% effective if everyone uses condoms 100% of the time." That is absolutely untrue...not just from my own experience, but also from what my doctors have told me, and from credible sources on the Web. I have yet to find a source that says condoms are 100 percent effective against ANYTHING.
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
Interestingly enough, when I found out I had HPV I did a ton a research and basically for every piece of info I found, I found something that contradicted it. So all in all, just be careful and be sure to stay up on Paps. I have a pap every 6 months and have had a couple colposcopies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states: HPV infection. Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. At least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. Also the Nation Cancer Institute says: Most HPV infections occur without any symptoms and go away without any treatment over the course of a few years. However, HPV infection sometimes persists for many years. Such infections are the primary cause of cervical cancer. HPVs may also play a role in cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, as well as oropharyngeal cancer.
jenintx jenintx 9 years
my doctor gave me information contradictory to some of the stuff DrSugar has reported as well. my doc said that the virus "clears" itself from your body (i suppose this means go dormant, though a friend of mine tested positive for HPV once, went through the colposcopy and now tests negative). he compared it to chicken pox. most people get chicken pox as children; it goes away after a week or two; and while you are "cured," the virus always remains in your system, which is why a large number of people will only get it once (some get it more than once). he also told me, as has been stated numerous times in the comments section, that condoms aren't necessarily effective in prevention, as it can spread via any skin-to-skin contact and not just through intercourse.
VolleyJen14 VolleyJen14 9 years
Just a side note....I really like posts like this. I have a couple friends who recently found out they have HPV and sometimes the information about these kinds of medical issues is difficult to sift through, so thanks...
gumdrops334 gumdrops334 9 years
Like everyone above me has said, no, condoms do not protect you 100% of the time. This is another reason why HPV is so so so common. You don't even need to have sex at all to get it. Just skin to skin contact. brown_eyed_grrl, thank you I totally agree. It frustrates me too when people say those things. It makes you feel like if you have it that you are a promiscuous stupid person who doesn't know how to protect themselves. Also, I have read that 80% of sexually active people will eventually have had it in their lifetime. Only a small percentage will know, however, because of changes in their cervix.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Wow! That is INSANE! 80%!!! And half the time, people mave NO CLUE they have it...
brown_eyed_grrl brown_eyed_grrl 9 years
Also, it frustrates me when I hear "use a condom, don't start having sex early, and don't have too many partners" and those are all ways to prevent it. The only way to prevent an HPV infection is to not have sexual contact of any kind. I got it, and I had sex for the first time at 21 with a long-term boyfriend. We always used condoms, even though I was on birth control. The only other person I've slept with is my husband...we also use condoms. So what the hell? I'm not saying you shouldn't follow that's good advice. But don't make people think they can avoid it by doing "all of the right things." If you're having sex, you can get it.
brown_eyed_grrl brown_eyed_grrl 9 years
Wow, not at all what I've read. Condoms are never 100 percent effective even if used 100 percent of the time, since HPV is spread by skin-to-skin genital contact, and condoms don't cover everything. From WebMD: "HPV can infect skin not normally covered by a condom, so using a condom does not fully protect you from the virus." Also, many people fight an HPV infection on their own, and in a couple of years they can test negative after a positive result. Also from WebMD: "Often, there are no symptoms of an HPV infection and the body clears the infection on its own over the course of a few years. Some people never know they were infected. In fact, research has found that about 90% of women infected with HPV virus show no traces of the virus within two years.
ella1978 ella1978 9 years
Okay, so here's what I know, after lots of research. There are literally over 120 strands of HPV. Planters warts... HPV, the wart on your finger, HPV. The good thing is that HPV doesn't travel from body part to body part. If you have a wart on your hand, you can't give it to someone's genitals. As of right now, they have located 4 strands that potentially lead to cervical cancer, and they developed guardasil to block the leading strains. Keep in mind that you have to be 26 or younger to get this vaccine. Now, by the age of 50 - approximately 80% of all women will have had this, and only 10% will have ever had an abnormal pap & know about it. It's riduculously common. It's so common that my OBGYN said that if you've had sex with a couple different people, the odds are that you have had it. Men carry it, but can't be easily tested for it. There is one test where you are submerging things in liquids, but it's not very effective. A very small percentage of men who carry it can develop cancer from it, much smaller than the percentage of women who develop cervical cancer from it. The virus never goes away, but it becomes dormant, it essentially "clears" itself from your body, meaning that it isn't creating abnormal cells in your cervix anymore. You still have it, meaning that you can't contract the same strain again, but there is a chance that it can flare up again. That's why it is always important to get screened for it. They normally don't screen for it before age 30, so if you have a feeling & you want to get tested, ask specifically. Recent studies have found that 50% of all college age women have HPV. That's an alarming statistic that just goes to show how much more sexually active teens are now a days. There are several processes that exist if you are diagnosed with a strain of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. First you will have a colposcopy. It is essentially a biopsy of the bad cells in your cervix. They will continue to monitor in 6-month intervals until your pap becomes normal again. If this continues past the 2-year mark there are a couple other procedures that you can have done. One essentially freezes the cervix so that the layer of cells die and shed, the other is generally only recommended if you are done having children & is called a LEEP, where they actually remove that portion of the cervix & resew you up. These two procedures are really for chronic HPV that refuses to clear itself from your body. Also keep in mind that condoms are only 50-60% effective at blocking HPV. I got it, and I had always been using condoms.. so it happens. Regardless.. go to your doctor and get regular check-ups! Sorry for the legnth, wanted to share my info!
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