The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a group of more than 200 related viruses, which are transmitted through sexual intercourse. The types of HPV that are sexually transmitted comprise two groups: low-risk and high-risk.
Low-risk HPVs cause almost no disease, but they can cause warts on the genitals or other parts of the body.
High-risk HPVs can cause various types of cancer. It is important to know that the vast majority of human papilloma virus infections clear up spontaneously within one to two years without developing any cancer. However, almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus, being the third most common type of cancer in women.
In low-risk human papilloma virus infections, healthcare professionals can diagnose warts only by looking at them.
In the case that HPV is the cause of cervical cancer, it is diagnosed with cytology, colposcopy and cervical biopsy, tests that detect whether abnormal cells have appeared in the cervix. The development of this type of cancer occurs especially in young women and is slowly progressive. Therefore, these tests make it possible to diagnose cellular changes in the cervix in its earliest stages, before they turn into cancer, and the probability of cure is very high.
The symptoms of low-risk HPV are usually warts that can come out on different parts of the body, especially in the genital areas, in the mouth and in the throat. However, in most cases HPV does not usually present symptoms.
If it is a high-risk infection that has caused cervical cancer, the symptoms will be those of the cancer itself:
- Light bleeding between menses
- Longer and heavier menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding after sex, during genital washing or pelvic exam
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Persistent back and / or pelvic pain for no apparent reason
The human papilloma virus itself cannot be treated, but its symptoms and consequences are treated. To treat warts that may appear in low-risk cases, medical treatments, freezing, abrasion, or surgical removal may be applied.
In the event that the human papilloma virus has caused cervical cancer, it will be necessary to perform a pelvic MRI to assess the size of the tumor and decide which type of treatment is the most appropriate. However, in general, the treatment in the initial cases consists of performing a surgical intervention to remove the uterus, the parametriums, the ovaries and the lymph nodes close to the cervix.
In more advanced states, treatment is based on the application of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In both cases it is very important to put yourself in the hands of specialized oncologists to ensure the success of the treatment.
There are certain factors that increase the risk of becoming infected with the virus, such as having multiple sexual partners, not using a condom, and having a depressed immune system. Proper use of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of contracting or spreading HPV.
On the other hand, there is a virus vaccine that is effective against the types of viruses that most commonly cause most genital warts, plus the seven high-risk HPV types that cause most cancers related to HPV, including cervical cancer. This vaccine prevents new infections, but it does not work to treat previous infections. For this reason, vaccination is recommended before the person initiates his sexual life.