Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, HPV Testing, and HPV Vaccines : Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the symptoms of HPV?

Genital HPV usually has no symptoms, unless it’s a type that causes genital warts. Genital warts may appear within weeks or months after contact with a partner who has HPV. More rarely, genital warts may show up years after exposure. The warts usually look like small bumps or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. If they are not treated, genital warts might go away, stay and not change, or increase in size or number. But warts very rarely turn into cancer.

Most people will never know they have HPV because they have no symptoms and their immune system inactivates the virus. In about 90% of people, their immune system clears the HPV infection within 2 years. This is true of both high-risk and low-risk HPV types. Sometimes HPV infections are not cleared. This can lead to cell changes that over many years may develop into cancer.

Last Medical Review: 05/02/2013
Last Revised: 05/02/2013