How often does HPV occur?HPV is a very common virus. Some studies suggest that at least 3 out of 4 people with sexual experience will develop genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.
How does HPV infection spread?HPV is most commonly spread through vaginal, anal and oral intercourse, but sexual intercourse is not necessary for infection. HPV is transmitted and spread through skin contact. Regardless of sex, having sexual contact with an infected person is the most common form of transmission of the virus. Like many other sexually transmitted diseases, genital HPV infection is often asymptomatic.
What diseases does HPV infection cause?Approximately 20 types of HPV cause genital warts. These warts appear inside or outside the vagina and on the penis. It can also spread to skin near these areas. Genital warts may also occur in the anus, vulva, or cervix. Approximately 15 types of HPV are associated with cancers of the anus, cervix, vulva, vagina and penis. They also cause cancers of the head and neck region (tonsils, back of the tongue). These are known as high-risk types of HPV.
How does HPV cause cervical cancer?The cervix is covered with a thin layer of tissue composed of cells. HPV can enter these cells. Infected cells become abnormal cells or become damaged and begin to grow differently. Alterations in these cells may proceed into what is known as pre-cancer. The changes in the thin tissue covering the cervix are called dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Most women's immune system destroys the virus before it turns into cancer. In some women, however, HPV is not destroyed by the immune system and remains in the body. In this case, HPV can lead to cancer or more often to pre-cancerous formations.
Are there screening tests for cervical cancer?Usually cervical cancer takes years to develop. During this period, HPV infection makes the cells on or around the cervix abnormal cells. The smear test (Pap smear or cervical cytology screening) detects abnormal cell changes at an early stage, allowing them to be treated without turning into cancer. HPV typing is also performed in women aged 30 years and older who have abnormal or suspicious smears. This test can detect more than 13 high-risk HPV types.
Can HPV infection be prevented?Some types of HPV infection can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. In addition, the following measures can be taken to reduce the risk of HPV infection: - Monogamy - Using a condom during sexual intercourse, however, the condom does not provide 100% protection against HPV infection. It may be transmitted by contact with infected areas (genital or anal) that are not covered by the condom.