About the human papillomavirus
HPV is globally the most common sexually transmitted infection. It often goes away by itself, as genital HPV infections sometimes come and go, and there are often no symptoms. HPV and herpes are not related, although they are sometimes confused as both can be sexually transmitted, and cause genital lesions, as well some near the anus, and around the mouth.
They are caused by two different viruses, namely the papillomavirus, and the herpes simplex virus. Because of this, they have slightly different symptoms and have to be treated differently. Both can also lie dormant in the body unless there is a flare-up due to low immunity issues. Symptoms can include warts on the genitals or surrounding areas, and although there is no cure for the HPV virus, warts often go away on their own. However, if any treatment is required, it is usually focused on removing warts.
Because HPV is a skin-to-skin infection sexual intercourse is not always needed for an infection to occur. If you notice any warts in the genital areas, visit the doctor for HPV tests. It is the only way HPV can be diagnosed.
HPV and cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is globally the most common cancer among women. Research has revealed that about 95% of this cancer is due to a human papillomavirus infection. HPV has 40 different strains of the virus, and it is important to note that 2 types (16 and 18) are linked to more than 50% of high grade cervical pre-cancerous test results.
Many people with HPV don’t develop any symptoms, but can still infect others through skin-to-skin sexual contact, and more especially via unprotected sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Fortunately, if your immune system is in good shape, most HPV infections may clear up on their own, as do many of the pre-cancerous lesions. However, there is a need for regular screenings of both HPV and cervical cancer, as there is a risk for all women that an undiagnosed HPV infection, or a pre-cancerous lesion, can become chronic and progress to cervical cancer.
There is a vaccine available which can prevent you from contracting the HPV virus, more specifically the strains which can lead to genital warts and possible cervical cancer. But you will have to be screened to see whether you unknowingly already have the virus, as if you do, the vaccine will not work. Otherwise, the vaccine is very effective, (for both men and women) and lasts for your lifetime.
Children from the age of 11 or 12, are also able to be vaccinated – both boys and girls, and studies have shown that it is entirely safe with no side effects.
The good news is that cervical cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed at an early stage, and treatment is not delayed. Infected men can develop warts in the genital areas, which can be safely removed by a doctor – if they don’t disappear on their own. The best way to prevent HPV is to use a condom and always practice safe sex. Note that regular screening for HPV and cervical cancer is very important, as it can be a lifesaver.
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