The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some specific types can lead to cancer or genital warts. HPV is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer.
What causes Cervical Cancer
There are more than 100 different strains of HPV, grouped into high-risk types (cancer-causing) and low risk types (non-cancer causing).
About a quarter of the HPV strains can infect the genital area in both men and women, but only 14 are associated with cervical cancer in women and less commonly, anal or penile cancer in men. These 14 strains are known as high-risk HPV. Other HPV strains may infect the skin of the fingers, hands, and face.
Some types of HPV can infect the cervix, causing normal cells to change. If this goes undetected by Pap tests, the infection persists, increasing the possibility of developing into cervical cancer. Specifically, HPV subtypes 16 and 18 account for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. A HPV DNA test would be a recommended test to detect high risk HPV strains before the cells become abnormal.
How is HPV Transmitted?
HPV is transmitted through sexual skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity or when an infected person’s genitals come into contact with another person’s genitals or mouth or throat. It cannot be spread by sitting on toilet seats or touching public surfaces (source).
How can HPV be Prevented?
- Regular Pap tests (every three to five years) would detect abnormal cells before they develop into cervical cancer. Chances of recovery are higher when the cancer is at an early stage.
- For women aged 30 years and above, HPV tests should be carried out once every five years to check for the type of HPV strains present, if any
- Take the HPV immunisation vaccination, which helps prevent the types of HPV infection that may lead to cervical cancer. It is most effective before any exposure to sexual activity
GARDASIL 9 is one of the vaccines for females aged 9 through 45 for the prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal cancers, and genital warts caused by HPV. Depending on the age the vaccination is taken, there may be two or three doses.