HPV is popularly known as human papilloma. Some types of HPV cause warts or papillomas, but they are not cancerous tumors. They usually appear on the mucosa of the genitalia of women and men. Depending on the type of virus, HPV lesions in men usually occur on the shaft of the penis, the foreskin, the glans and the urethral canal.
In women, there are certain types of HPV that can cause cancer, mainly in the cervix.
It is one of the best known sexually transmitted diseases. This link between HPV and cervical cancer was discovered following research that found higher cancer rates in prostitutes compared to those found in nuns.
According to research that has been done on this virus, it is estimated that at least 50% of sexually active people will develop a genital HPV infection in their lifetime.
How does it occur and how is it prevented?
HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. The use of condoms protects against HPV infection in 70% of cases, but in the remaining 30% where there is no protection, its appearance is due to the existence of lesions in areas not covered by the condom and its misuse.
Male condoms do not protect the entire genital area, while the female condom covers more of the vulva in women, although it has not been studied to determine its ability to protect against HPV.
What is the PAP test and how does it work?
It consists of a sample of cells taken from the cervix. The pathologist, once the analysis is done, can identify cancerous cells, although it is more common to find precancerous cell changes that can be treated.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Genital abnormalities are perceived, but to facilitate the identification of papilloma virus lesions, a test called penoscopy is performed. It consists of treating the cute of the penis and genital area with an acetic acid solution that marks the lesions and allows differentiating them from healthy cute.
However, penoscopy is not an infallible test, as it can give false negatives and the affected area may not be detected. Even so, it is still one of the most commonly performed tests.
How is HPV treated?
There is no specific treatment for HPV infection. Experts say that over time the body eliminates HPV naturally in 90% of cases, but it is still unknown whether it is completely eliminated or reduced to undetectable levels.
Treatment of infections is based on the use of some topical creams that act by activating a local immune response against the virus. In the case of precancerous lesions caused by HPV, surgery is used to remove the affected areas.
Getting vaccinated against HPV?
A 2006 study indicates that vaccines offer limited protection against some types of HPV. However, other HPV types may evade protection and the vaccine may be ineffective.
Some medical societies, such as the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine, say that vaccination should be avoided in the 16-18 age group.
On the other hand, scientific societies such as the Spanish Association Against Cancer support HPV vaccination and the WHO recommends HPV vaccination in all countries and especially in girls between 9 and 14 years of age just before they become sexually active.