HPV infections in Québec
A Pap test is a procedure that involves taking cells from the cervix during a gynecological examination. The test can reveal abnormalities associated with HPV.
Every year, around 53 000 women have to see a specialist to undergo additional tests after they receive an abnormal Pap test result.
In Québec, a few hundred women are diagnosed with and treated for cervical cancer every year. Nearly one quarter of these women die from it.
However, an even higher number of women are affected by HPV infections and their consequences. Indeed, the Pap test is not perfect, for it only detects abnormalities caused by HPV half of the time. Furthermore, not all women necessarily have the recommended screening tests for cervical cancer, such as a Pap test, on a regular basis.
The additional tests required after an abnormal Pap test result can be repetitive, unpleasant and stressful. Some of these tests, such as a biopsy or colposcopy, can also be painful. Other procedures, such as removing part of the uterus, may affect the woman’s fertility.
Men are also at risk of getting a HPV infection. However, men produce fewer antibodies than women following infection with 1 or more types of HPV. Therefore, the risk of being infected by the same type of HPV may be higher for men. Moreover, some data show that, for men, the risk of getting a HPV infection does not decrease with age and increases with the number of partners. The risk of developing cancer of the anus, penis or throat increases with age.
Men who have sex with men
Compared with men who have sex with women, men who have sex with men:
- Are at higher risk of getting warts (they get them two to three times more often than heterosexual men)
- Are at much higher risk of getting HPV-associated cancer, especially anal cancer
Men who have sex with men do not usually benefit from the indirect protection that heterosexual men get from women. Vaccinated women indirectly protect men they have sex with because they are protected against the HPV types in the vaccine. This means they cannot transmit these HPV types to their sexual partners.