is HPV and how is it related to cervical cancer?
cancer is by far the most common HPV-related disease. Almost all cases of cervical
cancer can be attributed to HPV infection.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and
marks the perfect time to talk about human papillomavirus virus, how it affects
cancer of the cervix, what you need to know and what you can do to keep
a little background on HPV. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of many viruses
that are very common throughout the world, and of these, about 13 are cancer
causing. HPV is usually passed from person to person during direct skin-to-skin
contact. Note that penetrative sex is not
required for either party to get the infection, and it is the most common
sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. As stated, t
here are many types of HPV, and many do not cause problems.
Most HPV infections usually clear up in a few months, with some taking around 2
years. The problem comes with the 13 types of HPV which cause precancerous
lesions or cancer.
frightening part of HPV is that most women experience no symptoms or health
problems to indicate when they have HPV. Sometimes, certain HPV types can cause
warts on various parts of the body. However, persistent infections with
specific types of HPV may lead to precancerous lesions. If left untreated,
these lesions may progress to cervical cancer, with this progression taking
place over many years.
The following symptoms of cervical
cancer tend to appear after the cancer has reached an advanced stage and may
Pain in pelvic
area, back or legs
appetite, weight loss or fatigue
periods, or abnormal bleeding after sexual intercourse
discomfort or discharge
What can you do to protect yourself?
HPV test is a way to prevent cervical cancer. During this test, your doctor or
healthcare provider will take a sample of cells from the cervix. Your doctor
will then look for abnormal changes in the cells, and test the sample for strains
of HPV most commonly linked to cervical cancer. You can have this testing done
by itself or combine it with a Pap test during your well women visit.
way to reduce your risk of contracting HPV is limiting your number of sex
partners. Having many partners will increase your risk of HPV infection. You
may think a condom will keep you safe, but it will not fully protect you from
HPV. Condom use will reduce HPV transmission between partners, however, areas
not covered by a condom can be infected by the virus.
There Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines to
prevent HPV infections. Receiving an HPV vaccine reduces your risk of
infection, however, these preventive vaccines will not cure an existing HPV
infection. HPV vaccinations are safe and effective in preventing a lasting infection,
and have also been shown to reduce precancerous lesions.
As stated, a vaccine can only
prevent HPV infection, not cure an
existing one. Therefore, it is recommended to get vaccinated before you become
sexually active. People who are already sexually active and who may already be
infected with HPV should talk with their doctor.
If you are experiencing symptoms, or
feel you may be at risk for contracting cervical cancer due to HPV, talk to
your healthcare provider about getting tested. If you are the parents of tweens
and teens you may want to consider vaccinating your children as a preventative measure
before they become sexually active. If you have questions on HPV, cervical
cancer or HPV vaccines, please contact Great Plains Women’s Health Center.