High-risk Human Papillomavirus
Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Cervical cancer and some anal cancers are caused by high-risk type human papillomavirus infections. Human papillomavirus infection is transmitted by sexual intercourse, so HPV should be considered a sexually transmitted infection. Although condoms are generally recommended for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, human papillomaviruses are present around the genital area, so it is not possible to perfectly prevent it with condoms alone.
Human papillomavirus itself is a very common virus that affects many people. There are nearly 200 types, and the pathogenicity and type of disease differ depending on the type. Most types do not cause any disease but some causes warts and cancer.
HPV types that can easily cause cancer when infected are called high-risk types (mainly types 16 and 18), such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, cancer in the mouth, and others. Condyloma is part of the low-risk type (mainly types 6 and 11).
There are usually no symptoms in the beginning of infection with high-risk human papillomavirus and nearly 90% of the virus spontaneously disappears. For the rest, who are continously infected, it can gradually cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix over the years and decades. Mild changes may disappear by natural immunity, but some cells undergo changes that lead to cancer. Cervical cancer has few symptoms in the early stages, but bleeding other than during menstruation, bleeding due to sexual activity, and increased vaginal discharge may be seen.
Route of infection and prevention
Human papillomavirus is transmitted mainly by the invasion of human papillomavirus through a small wound on the mucous membrane during sexual intercourse. Anyone who has had sex with you at least once in the past can be infected.
Although condoms are generally recommended for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, human papillomaviruses are present in a wide area around the genital area, so it is not possible to prevent 100% infection with condoms alone. There are vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus infection. It is recommended to inoculate before being infected with the human papillomavirus, that is, before having sex for the first time. However, since it is possible to prevent uninfected types and reinfection, it is considered to be meaningful to inoculate even after having sexual intercourse.
Vaccination against high-risk human papillomavirus types does not completely prevent cervical cancer. It is very important to have a regular checkup. All women aged over 20 are recommended to get a cervical smear test every two years.
This test, called a cytology test, assesses cancerous changes in cells in the cervix and a PCR test detects genes of high-risk human papillomavirus. Many cases of pre-cancerous changes in the cervix may return to normal but some of them may develop to cervical cancer. If any abnormalities are found in cytology, a thorough examination is required.
The PCR method is helpful in considering the presence of lesions that cannot be detected by cytology.
Infection with high-risk human papillomavirus causes almost no symptoms, and nearly 90% of the virus spontaneously disappears without any specific treatment.
Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment of cervical cancer. The most important thing is to get screened regularly. All women aged over 20 are recommended to get a cervical smear test every two years.