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Human papillomavirus: what you should know

The silent Human Papillomavirus How to avoid contagion! – Zenzsual

He human papillomavirus (HPV) is the sexually transmitted infection (STI) most common in most countries in the world. It is so common that it is estimated that most sexually active men and women contract it at some point in their lives.

There are about 200 different types of this virus. In most cases, the body itself eliminates the infection over time and does not leave significant sequelae. But there are some strains that can cause genital warts and others can even cause some types of cancer, including:

  • Cervix or uterine cancer
  • Rectal or anal cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • oropharyngeal cancer
  • Penile cancer

On the occasion of World Sexual Health Day, which is commemorated on September 4, Dr. María Montaño Serrano, gynecologist at the Dexeus Mujer Center in Barcelona, ​​explains to Vida y Salud that HPV is transmitted through sexual contact, whether genital or oral, and is currently one of the infections that is showing a clear increasing trend along with chlamydia, gonococcus and herpes. "We see that there is more and more interest on the part of the population about these infections and how to prevent them, but we also note that there is still a lot of ignorance about it."

One of the problems is that HPV can go unnoticed for many years since in most cases it does not cause symptoms, so it is essential to take measures to prevent it such as:

  • Correct use of the barrier method in sexual relations (condom): always and especially in the case of non-stable couples.
  • Get vaccinated against papillomavirus.

Although current vaccines do not fully protect, they are of great help against some of the strains most associated with the risk of cancer. This specialist remembers that both men and women of all ages can be vaccinated, regardless of whether they have been previously exposed to the virus or not. “We are seeing an increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted infections both in young people and in patients between the ages of 35 and 55,” says Dr. Montaño.

In many countries, especially in Europe, girls are routinely vaccinated from the age of 12 and vaccination is gradually being introduced to boys as well. “This is not so much because they have not had sexual relations yet, it is mainly because the earlier it is, the stronger the immune response to the virus and the more effective the vaccine is.”

The importance of reviews

Currently there are no detection programs for human papillomavirus infection because there is also no specific treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating the infection. As we have already mentioned, in most cases it does not cause symptoms and disappears after a while. The problem appears, for example, when one of the “dangerous” strains stays in the cervix for a long time because that is when, in the long run, it can cause cancer.

In reality, current medical measures are not aimed at avoiding the disease, but rather at detecting it early when it is still in a stage that experts call “premalignant” in order to intervene quickly. To do this, it is essential that women periodically perform a test called cytology or pap smear, which consists of obtaining and analyzing cells from the cervix, the lower and narrow end of the uterus that is above the vagina. “If the result of the cytology is altered, it is when the HPV determination is done through a PCR test to determine the HPV genotype,” indicates Dr. Montaño.

Furthermore, this specialist remembers that the most important aspects both to try to stop the evolution of the disease and to prevent it is to follow healthy habits such as:

  • No Smoking
  • Take care of your diet
  • Do exercise

It is estimated that about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and about 14 million people a year become infected for the first time. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV strains considered high risk cause 3% of all cancer cases in women and 2% in men.

Worldwide, the burden of HPV-related cancers is much higher. High-risk HPVs cause about 5% of all tumors in the world. Among these, an estimated 570,000 women and 60,000 men have an HPV-related cancer each year. Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of tumor and a leading cause of cancer-related death in low- and middle-income countries, where screening and treatment of early changes in cervical cells cervix are not very available.


"Because prevention is better than cure"

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