Did you know that 80% of the sexually active population is at some point infected by HPV (Human Papillomavirus)? The condyloma virus, as it is also known, is a very common virus which can remain at a latent status in the body until the moment that your weakened immune system will allow it to manifest. Additionally, in most of the cases there are no symptoms which could lead to an immediate medical examination.
There are 80 subtypes of the sexually transmitted HPV that can be distinguished as “low-risk” and “high-risk” strains. Genital warts, the most frequent sexually transmitted disease worldwide, are caused by the “low-risk” HPV types. For precancerous lesions and the cervical cancers, 20 “high-risk” strains are responsible. Obviously, early detection and identification of an HPV strain are extremely important steps towards prevention and targeted treatment.
Is the PAP test sufficient?
The PAP test is necessary but not sufficient by itself to detect HPV at early first stages, when no lesions have been created yet. In addition, the PAP test does not provide information on the virus subtype. An HPV test can accurately provide the subtype, even before any symptom manifestation. Considering that 70% of cervical cancers are caused by only 2 strains of the virus, dual testing with a PAP test and an HPV test every two years, may reduce mortality due to cervical cancer by up to 59%!
How can I reduce the risk of infection from HPV?
- Using a condom during sexual contact, greatly reduces the infection risk (without eliminating it completely), as transmission can occur with all types of sexual contact but also with skin-to-skin contact.
- Vaccinating against the major subtypes of the virus, which are at the origin of 70% of cases of cervical cancer, although vaccines do not cover all high-risk subtypes, they do cover the most dangerous ones.
- Through preventive check-ups and in particular dual check-ups: PAP test and HPV-DNA test. Ask your gynecologist for more information.
- Leading a healthy lifestyle keeps the immune system strong.
- Quit smoking as smoking weakens the immune system.