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What are the chances of getting HPV after touching a person with cervical cancer?

Dec 2013
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Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 4124 Questions
My girlfriend from seven years ago was diagnosed with cervical cancer while we were dating and I'm concerned she might have exposed me to high-risk HPV (i.e. the type that does not cause warts). She told me she was never diagnosed with any STD's in her life, but I have read conflicting things about whether it is even possible to get cervical cancer without having first been exposed to HPV. Anyway, I have several questions that have only recently occurred to me and that I have not been able to find the answers to online. (1) Can the high risk strain (such as types 16 and 18) exist on the hands, and if so for how? I'm wondering both if I might have been infected on my fingers from touching her, or if not, if I can pass it to my own hands when going to the bathroom? (2) Can the virus exist on clothing, such as if I touch my pants while going to the bathroom, and then after washing my hands, could the virus be back on my hands again if I make contact with part of my clothing, and possibly be spread to someone else with a simple handshake? (3) Could the virus exist on the tongue (again, this is 7 years after last contact with this girl), and then be passed to someone else without having sex? I guess what I'm ultimately trying to determine is if you can pass the high-risk/cancer causing HPV types to someone either by hand or mouth without having sex. I'm afraid I'm turning into a bit of a germaphobe and am hoping to get some clear answers. Thank you.
Posted Fri, 7 Feb 2014 in Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Answered by Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia -9 hours later
Brief Answer: Least possibility of HPV in yourself Detailed Answer: Hi, Welcome and thanks for posting your query to the forum. After reading your query with diligence and analyzing all the informations provided by you, let me first reassure you that you do not have anything causing probelm in relation to HPV. Let me give some of the medical facts- It is correct that cervical cancer is caused by HPV 16 and 18 in most of the cases but it is also true that it can be also without HPV virus. Though there are different of reports regarding the exact cause of cervical cancer but it is also true that cervical cancer can also be without HPV also. So your girl friend can be partially correct about no exposure to STDs. Even if we consider your girl friend to be positive for HPV then themost important of the fact you should know is that- "7 years is enough of time for any virus to express itself in any person". Had you been exposed to the virus then it must have expressed in yourself at least in one or the other clincal manifestation within 1 year of period. I can get from your history that you are completely symptomfree and there had not been any type of warts or penile problem in yourself in last 7 years. It is also a medical fact that whenever we are exposed to any microbial agent including HPV virus, there is mounting of immunity against all these viruses. So even if we consider that you were exposed to HPV virus then also by your immunity you haven't had any problem or clinical manifestation. So kindly do not get anxious about the HPV infection in yourself. I hope you must be relaxed by the medical facts as provided above. If you have any further queries then I will be glad to help. With good health wishes, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia MD- Dermatology & Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What are the chances of getting HPV after touching a person with cervical cancer? 52 minutes later
Hi Doctor, Thank you for the prompt reply. I understand that in most people the virus will clear itself within a few years, but my understanding was that this was not the case 100% of the time. My understanding about HPV types 16 and 18 is that there are no visible symptoms, such as warts; so, in other words, a person can be infected and not realize it. Hopefully my immunity has gotten rid of the virus by now as you indicated is common, but I am still wondering if it is possible for the high-risk HPV types, such as 16 & 18, to either exist on the hands or on clothing and be passed along to another person without having sex, or if HPV is only passed through sexual activity. Thanks again.
Answered by Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia 1 hour later
Brief Answer: HPV 16&18 can not be passed through clothes/touch Detailed Answer: Hello, Thanks for your swift reply and further follow up. Let you understand first that there are more than 100s of HPV (Human papilloma virus) strains detected so far, but for cervical cancer it is the strain 16 and 18 which is commonly implicated in most of the cases. Considering your concern and the phobia for the viruses- let me reassure you fully that HPV 16 or 18 can never be passed through mere touching or clothes, by hand shakes or existing on hands. Clothes can never pass on the infection from one person to other person. These viruses are so delicate that on mere contact with air these gets damaged or inactivated. Had there been such a rampant and florid infection then half of this world would had been combating with one or the other HPV viral infections. So relieve your fear for any type of HPV infection. As I said earlier 7 years is one of very longest period of time where we consider more than enough of time to express anything. Even in HIV infection which we take as most serious of all infection we take 1-2 years as enough of period to show clinical manifestations. So relieve your anxiety for HPV or its modes of spread. Forget about every thing as good time of past. I hope these medical facts will relieve your anxiety. If you have any further queries then I will be glad to help. With good health wishes, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia MD- Dermatology & Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What are the chances of getting HPV after touching a person with cervical cancer? 8 minutes later
Thank you very much doctor. You have given me great peace of mind. God bless.
Answered by Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia 9 hours later
Brief Answer: Relieve your tensions and be relaxed Detailed Answer: Hello, I am really happy and relaxed that you are finally out of your tensions regarding HPV and related things. My all best wishes for you. If you have any further queries I will be glad to help or if not then close the discussion and rate the answer. Cheers to your healthy life ahead!!! with regards, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Kanodia (MD - Skin & Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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