HPV and Cervical Cancer

What is Cervical Cancer?

What is cervical cancerThere are many viruses that can lead to or cause cancer.  Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause cancer in the liver and also put a person in a higher risk category for non Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Leukemia viruses often lead to leukemia cancer.  Viruses do lead to cancer and there are vaccinations for several viruses causing cancers, other are still being developed.  There is however, a vaccination for a virus that has been known to cause several serious and deadly cancers, and that is genital human papillomavirus, otherwise known as HPV.

HPV is now among the most commonly sexually transmitted viruses.  There are now more than 100 types of HPV and more than 40 potential viruses that can infect both man and women, and unfortunately, these viruses can lead to various cancers, while not as common as cervical, nonetheless over 6,500 cases of HPV related cancers are diagnosed each year and currently, there are 20 million Americans with the HPV virus and it is believed that at least fifty percent of all sexually active men and women will get HPV during some time in their life. These viruses are not restricted to the genital areas; they can also infect the mouth and throat.  Unfortunately, the majority of people who are infected with the virus do not know they have it.  Additionally, people with a weaker immune system are more likely to develop HPV.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus but has different symptoms and health problems than other sexually transmitted diseases.  The majority of the time the body’s own defenses in the immune system will clear the HPV within two years.  However, there are roughly 10 percent of infections an are not cleared and can cause genital warts.  Warts can also appear in the throat, but this is extremely rare.  Cervical cancer is another result of an HPV infection.  There are other cancers that have been linked to the infection and while statistically not as high as cervical cancer, they are still as significant and include cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx.  Unfortunately, the HPV virus an cause the genital warts but there is no way of telling who will get HPV as a result.

The genital warts associated with HPV are bumps, or it can be just one bump in the genital area.  There is no real distinguishing feature of the bumps as they can appear in different sizes, however a doctor and diagnose the relationship between the bumps and any STD.  The warts can appear weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner.  The body’s natural response is to fight the virus, and in many cases, the bumps will go away. Sometimes the bumps grow and spread, and others they do not change.  The bump, however, will not turn to cancer.

People that are infected with the HPV virus want to understand the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer.  To understand the relationship, it also helps to understand cervical cancer.   Cervical cancer is does not have many recognizable symptoms and is often in its advanced stages by the time a positive diagnosis has be discovered.  Because of this, it is vital for women to maintain annual screenings as a precautionary measure.  The regular screenings can find signs of the disease that are in the early stages.  If the problem is caught early on, it usually is treatable and will not turn to cancer.  However, if it has turned to cancer, it is usually already in advanced stages.

The connection between HPV and cervical cancer is the cells.  Again, the majority of women and men, who become infected with HPV show no signs or symptoms, and the body’s immune system usually fights off the virus.  However, as indicated, there are many cases where that are not the case and the virus can survive dormant for years and when observed, the cells may only begin to show signs of a viral infection.  What transpires in the body is the normal cells on the cervix begin to convert to cancerous cells.  From there, the cancer silently grows and spreads throughout.

The statistics for cervical cancer are high.  Nearly 500,000 new cases of new cervical cancer cases worldwide are reported each year and nearly half of those cases will result in death.  In the United States alone, approximately 12, 000 women get cervical cancer, and the daunting reality, is almost all of them are connected to HPV.  While there is a large percentage of people who have contracted the HPV virus who do not develop cancer and there is no medical understanding on who will get it and who will not.  One possible link that is being explored is those women who are smokers are more likely to develop the cervical cancer because they are already in a higher risk category.  According to the American Cancer Society women who smoke double their rise for cervical cancer.

There is encouraging news about this virus and the link to cervical cancer and that is, vaccination.  There care vaccinations that ultimately prevent the HPV virus entirely, and with that prevention, significantly reduces the risk of the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.  The human papilloma virus vaccine will prevent certain classes of the virus that have been commonly linked to cancer of the cervix and other less common but equally significant cancers.  The vaccinations are called Gardasil and Cervarix and protect against two specific types of HPV that are linked to seventy percent of cervical cancers.  The vaccinations have also been shown to prevent the other less common cancers as well as warts.

The vaccinations are recommended for younger girls beginning at age 11 and in some cases age 9.  The vaccine can be given through age 26.  For men and boys, there is just one vaccine available, Gardasil.  This vaccination will protect males from most genital warts and cancers associated with the warts.  Like females, the vaccination offered at age 9 through ages 26.  Women past the age of 26 can guard themselves against developing cervical cancers by routine pap smears and annual examinations that can test for the onset of any precancerous or cancerous symptoms.

Like all sexually transmitted diseases, practicing safe sex is extremely important.  And, like all sexually transmitted diseases, the carrier often has the disease and transmits it without even knowing they are infected.  Taking extra precautions is vital.  While many STDs are treatable, there are some that are not treatable, and others that can lead to more serious illnesses, such as cervical cancer, as well as other less common cancers.  Condoms are a good form of protections, however, is not a full proof preventative maintenance of the disease.  They can however, significantly reduce the risk.  Safeguarding yourself against the virus can be done by limiting yourself to one sexual partner and remaining in a monogamous relationship.  However, if you are single, and sexually active, understanding a partner’s history is important as well as asking those hard questions.

Like so many cancers, there is a very common link to cancer of the cervix, and some more rare cancers.  By getting the Gardasil vaccination the risks are reduced substantially.  By maintaining a responsible and healthy sex life, this will also reduce potential risk of the human papillomavirus virus.

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