HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is a group of more than 150 viruses, some of which can produce warts (papillomas) on your body or infect genital areas of both men and women. There are even types of HPV that can lead cancer. HPV is mostly spread through skin-to-skin contact. It is considered as the most common sexually transmitted infection (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.). It does not matter if you only had one sex partner or more – those who are sexually active may get HPV at some point in their life. The problem is that sometimes the virus can hide in your body without giving any symptoms at all. People can live for years without even knowing about infection, thus, making harder to discover the exact moment of becoming infected. Even though most of HPV viruses may leave your organism in a year, some will stay there remaining undiscovered. It is especially dangerous because of high-risk HPVs that may lead to cervical or throat cancer and genital infection.
Further discussion will mostly be related to how HPV can affect women. Females can get HPV virus by having vaginal, anal or even oral sex with an infected partner. Although the virus affects both men and women, in men’s case, it can only lead to the appearance of genital warts and some anal cancers (Who does HPV affect?, n.d.). On the other hand, women’s health can be affected in a larger number of ways, such as the development of vaginal and anal cancers, cervical cancer, and genital warts. While it does not mean that men should be careless about the issue, still, the consequences of HPV infection poses a much greater threat to women.
HPV leads to cervical cancer by changing cervix cells into pre-cancer cells. These cells may revert to their normal state on their own, and if not, they can get treated (American Cancer Society, 2005). However, if they are not discovered and treated in time, they can cause cervical cancer. One thing to note is that very few HPVs can cause cervical cancer in women. However, the women who smoke, have AIDS or HIV, or just have HPVs that do not go away are a greater risk of getting cervical cancer. This is why it is important to get tests on HPV as often as possible. For example, Pap tests will not tell you whether you have HPV or not, but they will indicate any changes in cervical cells that could be caused by HPV. It should be noted, however, that such changes may not appear instantaneously or even appear at all, so having a normal Pap test does not necessarily mean you’re not infected with HPV. The HPV test is designed for identifying the exact type of HPV a woman has. Various scientific researches have shown that most cervical cancers in women are caused by HPV16 (HPV and abnormal pap smear results, n.d.).
At present, there is no direct cure for HPV, but there are several treatments to cervix changes caused by HPV, as well as vaccines designed to counter certain types of the virus. For instance, scientists developed a vaccine called Gardasil that prevents HPV-16 and HPV-18 types (main causes of cervical cancer) along with HPV-6 and HPV-11 (main causes of genital warts) (Center for Young Women’s Health, 2012). It provides our organism with antibodies necessary for fighting the virus and is mostly recommended for young women of 9-26 age. The vaccine is more efficient if the recipient had not been infected with HPV before use. It is not recommended for pregnant women or those with an immune disorder. Getting HPV vaccine is not mandatory, however, all people get sexually active at some point, so additional precaution will cause no harm.
Despite the invention of vaccine and various treatments, still, the best weapon against HPV is your own prudence and timely reaction. Cervical cancer is one of the main causes of women’s death. (Muhammad, 2011) In order to reduce the chances of getting infected by HPV, women can do the following preventive measures: abstinence or at least reducing the frequency of sexual acts, limiting the number of partners or choosing a partner who had not had many partners beforehand. The fewer partners, the fewer chances of HPV infection. Condoms do not always protect you from getting HPV, but they still reduce the risk of getting genital warts and cervical cancer. Also, do not hesitate to take multiple Pap and HPV tests. The absence of awareness of being infected is one of the main reasons for women’s health problems.
Human Papilloma Virus is one of the most common viruses in our society. Because of the nature of its spreading, there is no guarantee of not being infected with HPV at some point in your life. Although most HPVs are low-risk types and naturally can go away after some time, there is always a chance of getting a high-risk HPV, which is especially dangerous for women because of the possible development of genital cancers. Fortunately, there are already multiple vaccines developed to fight the virus, as well as various tests and other methods of treatment. Yet with that being said, the main problem of HPV infection still exists in a form of lack of knowledge. People are not getting informed enough about the disease and what it is capable of. The introduction of various information centers, health promotion, and social notification would help greatly to make more people aware of HPV.
American Cancer Society. (2005). What women should know about cervical cancer and human papilloma virus. Web.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Genital HPV infection – fact sheet. Web.
Center for Young Women’s Health. (2012). HPV vaccine. Web.
HPV and abnormal pap smear results. (n.d.). Web.
Muhammad, I. (2011). Oncogenic potential of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and its relation with cervical cancer. Virology Journal. Web.
Who does HPV affect? (n.d.). Web.