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Int J Med Sci. 2012;9(2):142-7. doi: 10.7150/ijms.3420. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

What questions do people ask on a human papillomavirus website? A comparative analysis of public and private questions.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Vincent's Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea, Suwon, Korea.



In 2004, we launched the question and answer (Q&A) section on a human papillomavirus (HPV) website ( that provides ample and regularly updated information about HPV. The purpose of this study is to collect data pertaining to questions posed on this website about HPV and its related diseases and analyze the type of questions and frequency before and after introduction of HPV vaccine in Korea. Using these results, we intend to determine the clinical and practical implications for doctors treating HPV and for HPV website providers.


Data were collected from March 2004 to July 2011. This study analyzed all the questions that were asked on the website during this period. The questions were categorized into 2 groups, according to whether they were asked publicly or privately. The 10 categories for classification were determined on the basis of the contents of the questions by 4 researchers with medical degrees (Ph.D.) related to HPV research. The frequency of the questions was separately determined for the public and private question formats. Also, we compared the type of questions and frequency before and after introduction of HPV vaccine in Korea and evaluated the changes in the 2 groups over the 2 periods studied.


Of the 3,062 subjects who visited the HPV website, 2,330 subjects asked public questions and 732 asked private questions. The most frequent question was "I have been infected with HPV, and I want to know about the treatment options for HPV infection and cervical dysplasia" (n = 1156, 37.8%), and the second most common question was "What are the transmission routes of HPV?" (n = 684, 22.3%). The third most common question was "How long does it take for HPV infection to spontaneously remit?" (n = 481, 15.7%).Of the 2,330 public questions, the most common question types pertained to the treatment of HPV and cervical dysplasia, HPV transmission, HPV remission, and risk of cervical cancer (in that order). Of the 732 private questions, the most frequent question types pertained to the HPV transmission, treatment of HPV and cervical dysplasia, genital warts, and HPV & pregnancy (in that order). The type and frequency of public and private questions showed statistical differences between the 2 groups (p < 0.001).


Our results show that when people consult an internet site about HPV, they actually want to seek about "treatment of HPV and cervical dysplasia", "HPV transmission", "HPV remission", "genital warts", and "risk of cervical cancer" (in this order). Also, our results showed that "genital warts" and "HPV & pregnancy" may have been considered embarrassing topics. Thus, these findings can be used to make informed recommendations for future clinical or internet-based communications with patients and the general public.


cervix; dysplasia; genital warts; human papillomavirus

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