Before jumping on to HPV, let us go through some definition and facts regarding cervical cancer. It is a condition of rapid growth and change of the cells in the lining of the cervix and the narrow ends of the uterus on outer lining, that produce a mass of cells termed as a tumor. This condition takes time for its development. Women of any age are prone to it, but the most common are those women in their mid-40s. A virus, called HPV, is the cause maximum cases of cervical cancer.
What is HPV??
HPV stands for human papilloma virus. A very common virus with about 100 types that affect various parts of a body. About 30 types of HPV are known to affect the genitals, including the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum and even the rectum and anus. Out of these, around 13 types are considered to be at “high risk,” that lead to cervical cancer.
• Most common form of HPV is one that affects the genitals. Approximately 20 million people are having HPV infection at any given instance time. Majority of men and women, that comprise of about 80 percent of total sexually active people are infected with HPV at one stage in their lives, but most of them never know about it.
Causes of HPV:
Genital HPV spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone infected by HPV infection. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts. A sexually active person can get HPV and genital warts more commonly in women.
Symptoms of HPV:
Usually HPV produces no symptoms but when they occur, the most common symptom is the presence of warts in genitals. The signs of infection start appearing weeks, months, or even years after the virus have infected the victim.
• Using condoms while having sex reduces the risk of HPV. However, condoms are not 100 percent effective in protection against the spread of HPV. A person having genital warts should not have sex until they have been removed.
• Women should have regular checkups for abnormal changes in the cervix that might be a sign of pre-cancer. Sexual contact should be stopped as soon as symptoms genital warts occur.
• Best solution is to get the vaccine before start of sexual activity. It consists of a three shot series.
Relation between HPV and cervical cancer:
Certain specific strains of HPV cause changes in the cells of cervix, which is a condition medically called as cervical dysplasia. If it is untreated, it progresses to cervical cancer. Maximum cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. However, if a woman has HPV or cervical dysplasia it does not imply that she will get cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if pre-cancerous changes are diagnosed and are treated, before development of cancer. Before the age of 30, HPV infection gets resolved on its own. But by the time age reaches 30, detection of HPV during Pap screening proves helpful in determining the appropriate interval for the screening. Women should specifically get themselves examined by their doctors to check for the signs of the virus.
If a woman’s test results positive for high-risk HPV type, health care providers will perform a yearly Pap test to diagnose any form of cellular changes that might be pre-cancerous or that have to be treated.