HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV) IS EXTREMELY DISTRIBUTED ALL OVER THE WORLD. It is directly related to the development of cervical cancer, from which, according to WHO, more than 300 thousand women died in 2018 . In a joint project with the Invitro laboratory network , we tell you how to detect HPV infection, whether you can get vaccinated from it and what myths about the virus should not be believed.
What is HPV
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. More than 200 types of the virus have already been identified . Some of them are relatively safe and are only the cause of the appearance of small formations on the skin – papillomas or warts. But there are strains of high oncogenic risk – they can lead to the development of cancer. An infected person can self-eliminate the virus when the HPV disappears without treatment. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition , 90% of HPV infections resolve on their own within two years.
How to tell if I have HPV infection
HPV infection may not appear for a long time . But if the virus has entered the body ( transmitted during sexual intercourse, including oral-genital and anal, and also extremely rarely during childbirth from mother to child), it will wait in the wings. Papillomas on the skin or mucous membranes – a signal to go to the doctor. However, it is better to regularly visit a gynecologist and undergo laboratory tests: screening for HPV of high oncogenic risk. It is performed using a PCR or Digene test. Women starting from the age of 30 need to undergo an examination at least once every three years.
Research confirms that HPV infection is the cause of cervical cancer . What’s more, it can cause cancers of the mouth or throat, anus, vulva, vagina, and penis. The most dangerous are the 16th and 18th types of the virus. According to the WHO , more than 500,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year . Therefore, it is so important to detect HPV infection in time and take the necessary measures to control the situation.
Work ahead of the curve
By HPV can be vaccinated. To date, three vaccines against oncogenic virus strains have been licensed in the world. The most effective is the one that works against nine highly oncogenic types of HPV. Today, although vaccination is considered ideal at the age of 9-14 years, its upper limit, according to official indications in different countries, is up to 45 years . And in Australia, free mass vaccination has led to the fact that the country is the first in the world to get rid of cervical cancer altogether .
HPV and gender
The papillomavirus is surrounded by a lot of speculation. One of the most common – HPV infection occurs only in women. Men are indeed more resistant to the effects of the virus, but it is sexually transmitted, which means that the chances of becoming a carrier of it are gender-neutral. In men, HPV can cause cancer of the anal canal or penis. Consulting a urologist and examining a smear from the urethra for oncogenic HPV types will help identify an infection, and , if necessary, carry out prevention or treatment.
HPV and barrier methods of contraception
Another myth that lulls the vigilance: a condom reliably protects against HPV. This is not the case. Condoms reduce the likelihood of infection, but are not a panacea – the risk of infection still remains, because the virus can be transmitted by contact with skin or mucous membranes that are not protected by a condom. The proliferation of oncogenic HPV strains greatly reduces circumcision .
Timely diagnostics, allowing to identify HPV and determine its type, is what the world is focusing on today. In Scandinavia, when screening women who, for one reason or another, do not visit an obstetrician-gynecologist, they suggest using a self-sampling system. The patient uses a self- sampling kit , which includes a sterile brush or swab and a small tube. They then need only be attributed to the lab. A similar self-admission system will soon be used in the Invitro laboratory .