HPV And Cervical Cancer
Some HPV and Cervical Cancer Facts
Did you know that:
- HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer?
- Cervical cancer affects half a million women each year worldwide, and that many die from the disease?
- Pap Smears for women are the number one test for determining the presence of high-risk HPV and cervical cancer?
- Today there are vaccines that are highly effective in preventing cervical cancer?
The HPV-Cancer Connection
Human Papillomavirus is group of over 100 viruses that are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sex (oral, anal, or vaginal). In the majority of cases people do not even know that they are infected since HPV occurs without noticeable symptoms and the body's immune system heals the viruses naturally without treatment. However, some HPV infections can persist for years and cause certain types of cancer. This group of viruses is called oncogenic or carcinogenic HPVs.
The most common type of cancer caused by HPV is cervical cancer, although cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, and throat (oropharyngeal cancer) can also result from HPV.
Detecting HPV and Cervical Cancer
Although most HPV infections do not lead to cancer, it is critical for women to have regular Pap smear tests. The Pap smear (also called Papanicola test, Pap test, cervical smear, or smear test) is considered the number one tool for detecting cervical cancer in women. This test locates abnormal cells on the cervix so that they can be removed before cancer develops.
Today an HPV test is also available that can determine the presence of HPV and of high-risk HPV strains. The HPV test uses the same technique of taking a sample of cervical cells and is performed along with a Pap smear test. Note that while the experts recommend that all women over the age of 30 should be offered the HPV test along with a routine Pap smear, not all doctors do so and thus it is important that women request to have the HPV test performed. In some cases doctors wait for an abnormal Pap smear before they order the HPV test.
Preventing Cervical Cancer
The only sure way of eliminating the risk of genital HPV infection and related cancers is to abstain from all sexual contact. If you are going to be sexually active, however, you can best prevent HPV by choosing a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship. Note that although condom use is associated with lower rates of HPV, one can still spread or become infected by HPV while using a condom.
The earlier cervical cancer is detected the sooner appropriate treatment can begin. It is said that 90 percent of cervical cancer deaths could be avoided via early detection with the Pap smear.
Fortunately, today there are vaccines that are highly effective in preventing cervical cancer. Two vaccines that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are Cervarix and Gardasil.