What is the Human Papilloma? HPV or Human Papillomavirus is responsible for a large number of infections, which in most cases are an asymptomatic and spontaneous regression. This is, in fact, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the world.
It can lead to benign lesions such as warts and benign lesions of the oropharynx, and in a relatively rare number of cases, it can turn into cancer, with special emphasis on cancer of the cervix.
What is the Human Papilloma?
As its name suggests, HPV is a common virus in Human Papilloma, responsible for the formation of papillomas that lead to an injury. There are different types of HPV; some types can infect the anogenital area, while others infect areas such as the feet or hands, which can cause warts or “blackheads”.
Viruses that infect the anogenital area can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex, or during intimate skin-to-skin contact between individuals in whom at least one is infected.
In the sexually active population, 50-80% of people acquire HPV infection at some point in their life, although in most cases, there is no progress of the symptomatic disease.
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Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, is the most important disease associated with HPV infection, especially when it is not detected in time, it progresses to invasive forms.
In fact, approximately 100% of cervical cancer cases are associated with HPV infection. The evolution of cervical cancer is very slow and is usually asymptomatic.
Persistent HPV infection has a long latency period (years or decades from the onset of infection and the development of tumors) through several phases.
To date, there are more than 200 types of HPV identified of which around 40 are preferentially infecting the anogenital system: vulva, vagina, cervix, penis and perianal region.
With respect to cervical cancer, existing national data suggest that there are about 1,000 new cases each year, with an incidence rate of 20.95 / 100,000 women, for all ages. HPV can also be associated with cancer of the vulva, penis, and anus, among others.
What causes HPV infection?
The genital HPV infections usually transmitted sexually, through direct contact with skin or mucous membranes, and, more rarely, during childbirth. Some cases of transmission by oral-genital contact are also described.
Although many women with HPV infection rarely progress to cancer. Several factors have identified that increase the risk of persistent HPV infection and progression to cancer: some types of viruses (HPV 16 and HPV 18)
Co-infection with various immunodeficiencies; early onset of sexual activity; multiple sexual partners; multiple births; genetic predisposition; the habit of smoking; co-infection with other sexually transmitted organisms (especially herpes simplex 2 virus and Chlamydia trachomatis).
Some studies suggest that prolonged use of oral contraceptives may be another risk factor for this progression to cervical cancer.
How is HPV infection?
HPV often causes a silent infection that many of the infected people have no symptoms or signs. Sometimes the warts are present but not visible because they are in an internal part of the body, or they are very small
Anogenital warts, also called condylomas, may appear as small bulging lesions, similar to cauliflower, or may be flat. In women, warts can appear on the vulva, cervix, thighs, anus, rectum, or urethra.
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HPV does not seem to affect the ability to get pregnant. In very rare cases, HPV may be lodged in the child’s oropharynx and become infected during labor.
During pregnancy, the number and size of warts may increase but usually decreases after birth.
How is HPV infection diagnosed?
The regular Pap test helps identify early changes in the cells of the cervix, which allows for its treatment and monitoring.
This routine cytological examination is an important assessment tool because there is no way to know in advance that the person who has the infection will persist or not and develop cancer.
If these changes are not identified early, there is a possibility of progression to more serious injuries and, possibly, to cancer.
The HPV DNA test allows the genetic characterization of the virus, is available in some countries but is not part of a regular examination. This more specific tests can be recommended in situations of cervical change, detected by the review.
How is HPV infection?
There is no known cure for HPV infections, but the vast majority of people have an adequate immune system and can eliminate the infection from their body. Although a high percentage of sexually active people will become infected with HPV, only a small proportion will result in progression to cancer.
Treatment consists of cryotherapy, electrocoagulation, laser or, very rarely, surgical excision. Sometimes warts may reappear after the treatment, being necessary to repeat it.
How to prevent HPV infection?
The prevention of HPV infection depends mainly on the behavior adopted.
It is important to know the preventive measures and to use them constantly, to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, their consequences, and methods of transmission.
The use of condoms is indicated for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. It is important to emphasize that areas of the skin not covered by the condom are not protected.
It is very important to talk with your partner about sexually transmitted infections and prevention and keep in mind that the previous behavior of a partner is also a risk factor, especially if you had multiple previous partners.