The word vaccination can be a scary word, especially if misunderstood. It is a vital health procedure that improves safety and health for those who get the vaccination and in many cases, those who are around those who have the vaccination. The HPV vaccination is no exception to either.
This vaccination was recently approved for girls and boys.
It still remains somewhat controversial but I think this is for two reasons:
1.) Under Awareness of HPV
2.) Lack of understanding on the benefits of the vaccination.
This is the first of two blog posts that will discuss the topic of HPV for girls and boys. In Part I we will take a closer look at HPV and what it causes. We will also look closer at Cervical cancer, Pap smears, and how HPV is transmitted. In part II we will look at the two types of vaccines.
It is first and foremost necessary to understand what HPV is and why a vaccine is need. So let’s take a look.
HPV is also called Human Papilloma Virus. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different types of viruses. HPV is from a family of viruses called the papillomavirus family. This type of virus affects, for the majority of patients, the skin layers of the body.
This type of virus has many different types of viruses. In fact, over 200 different types of HPV are known. The interesting thing is that not all types of HPV viruses cause an effect. And in most cases, the HPV infection has no symptoms.
But that ones that do cause symptoms can pack quite a bunch. HPV virus can lead to genital warts, cancers, and possibly other heath issues.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Cancer caused by the HPV can be found in the cervix, vagina, vulva and anus in women. In men, it can cause cancer of the anus and penis. Oral cancers can also be found from HPV in both men and women.
Cervical cancer in women can be attributed almost entirely to HPV. Cervical cancer is very important to understand and is the reason why women are asked to have a Pap smear yearly or every other year.
Cervical cancer is an interesting cancer. It usually starts with no symptoms and takes years to develop. Since HPV is the cause of over ninety percent of the cases, vaccines were started to protect young women from getting the cancer, years down the line.
As the abnormal cells of the cervix change into cancer, additional symptoms can be seen. Vaginal bleeding, pain with urination and sexual activity, vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, and much more can be seen.
Treatment for Cervical cancer will depend on how far along the cancer is when it is found. Hysterectomy, biopsies of affected areas, excision procedures, lymph node removal, radiation, and chemotherapy are all options.
Pap smears really help decrease the incidence of cervical cancer, but in effect, it only helps in some cases. Pap smear also stands for Papanicolaous test. The pap smear is a screening technique.
Treatment is often the next step if abnormal cells or cancer is detected. Liquid-based cytology and colposcopy is done to identify the severity of the abnormal cells and to initially treat the condition.
The guidelines for screening pap smears depend on each country. In some cases, pap smears don’t start until age 25 or even lager. In the United States, it is recommended to wait three years from when you first start to be sexually active or somewhere between 20 and 25.
Pap smears should continued until around 55 to 60 or so.
Frequency is another story. This often depends on risk or previous normal pap smear. Every 2-5 years is typically recommended for those who have had previous normal pap smear. But this could be increased to every 1-2 years depending on provider and comfort.
If you’ve had an abnormal pap smear, it doesn’t always mean cancer. And in most cases it doesn’t. But this abnormal finding increases your risk and pap smears and possible preventative treatment may be recommended. A 6 month follow-up pap smear may be ordered.
A pap smear should not be done while a woman is in the process of menstruating. This isn’t always the case, but it depends on blood flow and when in the menstrual period it is done. The later in the period, the better.
Studies have looked at the types of HPV virus that affects what. Cancer is caused by types 16 and 18 almost seventy percent of the time.
HPV is Sexually Transmitted
Over 40 types of HPV are sexually transmitted. Condoms do not completely protect from the virus, because some skin to skin contact happens. Women sexually active with women are still at risk. As are men with other me.
HPV can be spread during childbirth. It is relatively rare but it can occur. Breathing difficulties can occur. This happens in less than 1% of all births.