Cervical Cancer – HPV – Sexual Relationships and How They Relate
The acronym HPV stands for Human papillomaviruses. HPV are a group of viruses of which there are over 100 different types. They can produce benign tumors, known as Papillomas or warts, which tend to grow in areas such as the hands, feet, throat or genital areas. The causes of the warts vary. The HPV viruses that cause warts on the hands and feet differ from the ones that cause warts on the throat and genital areas. Some of these HPV’s are thought to lead to cancer.
Only 30 types of HPV are contagious. That leaves 70 types that cannot be passed on from person to person. HPV’s are transmitted sexually but the actual time of infection is generally unknown. Most of the time HPV’s can exist in the body without changing any of the cell structures and run their course without any medical intervention
Genital warts or condylomata acurninatum, are caused by two different types of HPV strains HPV6 and HPV 11. Typically people see warts a couple of weeks after they have sex with an infected partner. Some people acquire HPV and warts do not appear for months or years. Others never get warts. You can have HPV and never have any clue, as they can be asymptomatic.
HPV’s are also a major contributor to cervical cancer which is a devastating disease that kills many women worldwide.
Along with the HPV6 and HP11 there are 14 other HPV’s that may lead to cancer. Sexually transmitted HPV’s are referred to as benign high risk. Benign HPV’s that cause genital warts are easy to see but, HPV’s that are the cause of non genital warts produce only slightly raised growths making it difficult to see and therefore diagnose.
When it comes to HPV infections and cervical cancer susceptibility can be increased by several different factors. Multiple sex partners increase the risk of cervical cancer. Being infected with a high risk HPV also increases the chance of the virus leading to cervical cancer. Women that smoke or have many children increase their risk of developing cervical cancer if they acquire HPV.
All sexually active people should be aware of HPV’s. Most people that get the virus will never experience any symptoms or repercussions, but a small percentage will be at a risk of developing cervical cancer. In order to completely avoid the risk of contracting HPV you have to refrain from sex completely. A fairly unrealistic expectation for most people, however, by being in a mutual monogamous relationship or by maintaining a low number of sexual partners your risk can be drastically reduced.
There is now a FDA approved vaccination that can help prevent HPV16, 18, 6 and 11. HPV 16 and 18 are the main causes of cervical cancer. Teenagers and women under a certain age are eligible for the vaccination. Ask your GP for information.
Visit your physician or gynecologist for a pap smear every year, this is the best way to maintain a healthy cervix. If a pap smear displays abnormal cells an HPV test can be done to see if it is present.
When it comes to your health the best defense is a strong offense.