HPV, or its medical term, Human papillomavirus, is an infection that mutates cells in the body, and a cause of cervical cancer. Most infections go undetected. Warts may be the first sign of HPV. However, your body’s immune system may defeat the infection before warts form and are noticed. Most times, women never know they have an active infection.
Do All HPV Infections Cause Cancer in Women?
Most HPV infections do not lead to cancer, but it is difficult to know the difference between the cancerous and noncancerous infections.
Did you know that most high-risk infections do not reveal symptoms? Unknowingly to you, your body can fight the infection and it may go away within 1 to 2 years.
Fortunately, most HPV infections do not cause cancer. However, there are some infections that can remain in your body for many years. These persistent high-risk HPV infections can lead to cancer if cell changes are left undetected and untreated.
Potential cancers caused by high-risk types:
- Cervical cancer: Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.
- Types 16 and 18 are liable for about 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases.
- Anal cancer: It is the cause of about 95% of anal cancer cases. Type 16 is the leading cause of anal cancer.
- Oropharyngeal cancers: (these are cancers of the throat, the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils) Type 16 is associated to more than half of the oropharyngeal cancers in the United States alone. This STD causes about 70 percent of all oropharyngeal cancers.
- Rarer cancers: HPV type 16 causes most vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.
- About 65 percent of vaginal cancers
- 50 percent of vulvar cancers
- 35 percent of penile cancers.
Know the symptoms and the associated preventions to help you understand HPV better, whether for prevention or care.
4 Common HPV Symptoms to Know
HPV infections are detected and attacked by your body’s immune system before symptoms like warts are present. Various types of warts can appear depending on the type of HPV infection.
- Genital Warts Usually flat lesions, small cauliflower-like bumps. Less commonly, genital warts may cause discomfort, pain, or itching. Women- warts appear mostly on the vulva. Warts can also occur near the anus, on the cervix or in the vagina. Men- warts can appear on the penis, scrotum or around the anus.
- Common Warts Common warts can be rough, raised bumps. These warts are commonly on the hands, fingers or elbows. Common warts can be painful, and bleeding if injured.
- Plantar Warts Plantar warts are growths that appear appear on the heels or balls of your feet. Some of these warts may cause discomfort due to the location.
- Flat Warts Flat warts are how they sound. These warts are slightly raised lesions and darker than your skin. Children get them on the face, men tend to get them in the beard area, and women tend to get them on the legs.
First Step of Prevention: Know the Risks
Detect cervical cancer and Human papillomavirus early before it progresses. Know the warning signs as well as your risks.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- HPV infection
- long-term use of birth control pills
- weakened immune system
- mother’s use of diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy
Risk factors for HPV include:
- numerous sexual partners
- Intimacy at a young age
- weakened immune system
Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection and cervical cancer. For women who did not receive a vaccination, Pap tests are the best way to prevent and screen for cervical cancer.
The Pap test is a preventative measure to detect abnormal and precancerous cells. The Pap test looks for these changes on the cervix. Early detection with Pap tests is the best way to prevent cervical cancer.
The Pap test, or Pap smear, is a routine procedure involving swabbing of the cervix for cells to be microscopically examined by a doctor. Testing may also be performed by the doctor at the same time they do a Pap test.
HPV vaccination is highly advised for females from age 9-26. It is recommended before sexual activity for prevention of infection, cervical cancer, and genital warts.
Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against the two most common high-risk types, strain 16 and 18. 70 percent of cervical cancers are caused by these two strains. Gardasil also protects from strains 1 and 6, which cause most of the cases of genital warts.
Find out more about HPV vaccination and cervical cancer at:
Both men and women are carriers of HPV. Men are also recommended to talk to their doctor about vaccine protection. Boys should also be vaccinated at age 11 or 12. Males can get the vaccine until age 21 and females can get the vaccine up until age 26; unless already exposed to HPV.
Schedule regular pap smears to keep track of changing cells and detecting cervical cancers.
Danielle Olson is a Marketing Manager/PR intern from Northern Arizona University with a passion for women’s health. She wants to connect YourDoctors.Online specialists to those interested in health, fitness, and wellness, just like her. She currently helms social media campaigns, web marketing, and blogger outreach.
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