HPV is a virus that can affect both males and females. There are over one hundred variations of this virus with some types causing warts on the hands and feet. Human Papillomavirus or HPV may be harmless in most cases or have simple symptoms that go away on their own. However, there are 40 types of HPVs that affect the genital areas. Up to 80% of men and women who are sexually active will be infected by one type of genital HPV infection at a point in their lives.
Type 16 and Type 18 of the HPV are known to cause cervical pre-cancer and cancer. These types of HPV are known as high-risk HPV. Low-risk HPV types 6 and type 11 cause genital warts and some benign changes in the cervix. Both of these types of HPVs can cause abnormal pap smears.
How does HPV spread?
HPV is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. Therefore anyone involved in any kind of sexual activity that involves genital contact could lead to getting HPV infection. Most people do not develop any symptoms of HPV infection and end up spreading the virus without knowing it. Sometimes one person can be infected with more than one type of HPV.
Cervical cancer affects the lower part of the uterus situated at the top of the vagina called the cervix. This type of cancer develops when there is an abnormal multiplication of cells in the lining of the cervix leading to pre-cancerous abnormalities. If these growths are undetected, they may develop into tumors and affect surrounding tissue.
Women who are infected the high-risk types of the HPV virus are more likely to develop cervical cancer. Studies have shown that high-risk HPVs are responsive for almost seventy percent of all cervical cancers in women. Not everyone with HPV injection develops cervical cancer especially if the body’s defenses can clear the virus by ninety percent in about three years. If the body is unable to clear the low-risk type of the virus, some benign changes to the cervix may develop.
Early detection is the best way to prevent the development of cancer from HPV infection. Regular pap smears are the best way to detect any cell changes in the cervix that leads to cancer. A pap smear should be performed at least once every two years in women who are sexually active.