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Human Papilloma Virus: The main causes of cervical cancer

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   7 min     



It is a viral infection that is passed between people through the skin to skin contact. There are around 100 varieties of HPV, out of which 40 are passed due to contacting through sexual activity and can affect your genitals, mouth, or throat. It is the most common STI that affects both men and women. 

The high time for acquiring infection for both females and males is soon after becoming sexually active. Yes, HPV is sexually transmitted, but penetrative sex is not needed for transmission. Skin-to-skin genital contact is a well-recognised method of transmission. 

HPV types fall into two categories:

  • Low-risk HPVs: This type of HPV does not cause cancer but can cause skin warts or around genital parts. HPV type 6 and 11 cause 90% of all genital warts, and it also causes reoccurring respiratory papillomatosis which is a less common disease, and in which innocuous tumours develop in the air passages from the nose to the mouth, and then into the lungs.

  • High-risk HPVs: This type of HPV can cause cancer. More than 12 HPV high-risk types have been identified. Two of these are HPV 16 and 18. It can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, oropharyngeal cancers and other rarer genital cancers.

By far, cervical cancer is the most prevalent HPV-related disease. Almost every case of cervical cancer can be attributable to HPV disease.

Symptoms of HPV

In most situations, your immune system overcomes an HPV infection before it produces warts. When warts do develop, they differ in appearance depending on the kind of HPV involved:

  • Genital warts. These appear as flat swellings, small cauliflower-like bumps or tiny stem-like bulges. In women, genital warts develop mostly on the vulva. But, it can also occur near the anus, on the cervix or in the vagina. In men, genital warts arise on the penis and scrotum or nearby the anus. Genital warts rarely cause any discomfort or pain, but they may be itchy or feel tender.

  • Common warts. Common warts emerge as rough, raised protuberances or bumps and usually occur on the hands and fingers. In most cases, common blemishes are hideous, but they can also be painful or susceptive to injury or bleeding.

  • Flat warts. Flat warts appear as flat-topped, somewhat raised lesions. They can develop anywhere, but in children, it's usually on the face. Whereas males often get them in the beard area, females tend to get them on the legs.

  • Plantar warts. Plantar warts are thick, grainy growths that usually develop on the heels or balls of your feet. These growths might cause discomfort.

Causes of HPV

It can be caused by direct sexual contact, such as oral sex. As it is skin to skin infection, intercourse is not required to contract the virus.

Although most HPV infections remove on their own and several pre-cancerous lesions settle automatically, there is a chance for all women that HPV infection may become permanent and pre-cancerous lesions advance to invasive cervical cancer. 

It requires 15-20 years for cervical cancer to develop in females with healthy immune systems. It can take only 5-10 years in women with relapsed immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection.

If you're an expecting to-be mother and have an HPV infection with genital warts, your baby may probably get the disease. Unusually, the infection may cause a noncancerous growth in the baby's larynx (voice box). 

Warts are infectious. They can spread through direct contact or even when someone touches something that already touched a wart.

Prevention for HPV

  • Common warts: It's tough to counter HPV infections that incur common warts. But, if you have a common wart, you can restrict the spread of the virus and development of new warts by not indenting at a wart and not biting your nails.

  • Genital warts: You can defeat your risk of growing genital warts and other HPV-related genital lesions by:

    • Being in a respectively monogamous sexual relationship

    • Lessening your number of sex companions

    • Using a latex condom, which can overcome your risk of HPV transmission

  • Plantar warts: To decrease the risk of incurring HPV infections that cause plantar warts, wear shoes or sandals in public pools and locker rooms.

HPV Vaccination

HPV vaccination before any intimate activity can lessen the risk of infection by the HPV types targeted by the vaccine. There are medications licensed by the FDA to prevent HPV infection. The most current was Gardasil 9, which is certified for use in males and females ages 9-45 to guard against cervical cancer and genital warts. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests routine HPV vaccination for boys and girls ages 11-12, but it can be given as early as age 9. It's absolute for boys and girls to get the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are endangered to HPV. The study has shown that taking the vaccine at a young age isn't linked to an earlier commencement of the sexual activity.

These vaccines can present strong protection against new HPV infections, but they are not capable of treating established HPV infections or other disease caused by HPV. Also, response to the vaccine is more beneficial at younger ages than older ones. But, if given before someone is infected, the vaccine can anticipate most cases of cervical cancer.

Diagnosis for HPV

  • There is a DNA test for HPV approved by the FDA in 2014. This test is conducted on cells from your cervix and can identify the DNA of the high-risk types of HPV linked to genital cancers. It's recommended for women ages 30 and older along with the Pap test.

  • The new guideline by FDA recommends that women have their first Pap test or Pap smear, at the age of 21 and be tested for HPV at the same time. Women at the age of 2 to 29 should have just a Pap test every three years. Women's ages 30 to 35 should then be screened every five years with Pap and HPV tests at the same time. If a Pap test shows even one of 15 strains of HPV that can lead to cancer, then the doctor may monitor cervical changes. A doctor may want to do follow-up testing with colposcopy.

  • There is also a Vinegar (acetic acid) solution test in which a vinegar solution is applied to HPV-infected genital areas, turning them white. This may help in recognising difficult-to-see flat lesions.

Treatment for HPV

There is no such treatment for HPV. In most of the cases, they go away on their own but can reappear in the same place or other places. 

Medications for HPV warts

Medications are typically applied directly to the lesion to eliminate warts. It usually takes many applications before they're successful. Example are:

  • Salicylic acid. Over-the-counter medications that contain salicylic acid work by removing layers of a wart a little at a time. For use on common warts, salicylic acid is not for use on your face as it can cause skin irritation.

  • Podofilox. Another confined prescription, podofilox works by suppressing genital wart tissue. Podofilox may make your skin burn and itch.

  • Imiquimod. This prescription cream might improve your immune system's strength to fight HPV. The common side effects caused include redness and blistering at the application site.

  • Trichloroacetic acid. This chemical treatment burns off warts on the palms, soles and genitals. It might cause bounded irritation.

Surgeries for HPV in the cervix

If the medications couldn't control the infection, your doctor might recommend extracting warts by one of these methods:

  • Surgical removal

  • Laser surgery

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)

  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)

  • Burning with an electrical current (electrocautery)

  • Cold knife conization 

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Tags:  cancer,Sexual Health - Female,tumors,Cervical Cancer, sexual activity, sexual contact, skin contact

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