HPV and Cervical Cancer
Cervical Cancer is preventable and, if diagnosed early, is relatively easy to treat. Yet 21 women die of it in the UK each week and thousands more women undergo distressing colposcopy treatment each year to manage precancerous cervical and vulval changes. Strategies for prevention and management include:
- Sexual Abstinence
- Cervical Smear
Genital Warts caused by HPV in both sexes, though not life threatening, are very distressing and can also be prevented by vaccination. The peak incidence is at age 18-20.
What is HPV?
A typical HPV infected Cervical Cell
- The Human Papilomma Virus (HPV) also called the Wart Virus consists of over 100 types, each given a distinguishing number.
- It is very common in the community and about 40 types are sexually transmitted. Of these, only a handful are associated with or cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and, as recently identified, mouth, tongue and throat.
- Four important (high risk) HPV types cause 70% of cervical cancers and about 90% of genital warts. Infection with the virus also results in the large number of abnormal smears leading to colposcopy.
- It is now possible to vaccinate young girls and boys against the four 'high risk' types of the virus and thus prevent most of its effects, but this needs to be done before contact with the virus occurs.
- Vaccination of the older, sexually active child is on the assumption that they are unlikely to be infected by all 4 'high risk' types at once and immunity to any of the 4 types will reduce the lifetime chances of cancer or precancer.
It is also possible to carry out a simple test to determine your infection status before vaccinating, but we recommend that you discuss and fully understand the implications of a most likely positive result with your doctor.