You never know when you may be infected,
After testing, HPV could be detected.
Maybe you are next in line,
And that is absolutely not fine.
Cancer is what you get,
It’s definitely not a faire la fête.
Cervical cancer. One of the most common cancers in the world, and by far, the MOST COMMON cancer in women. It’s something that cannot be ignored. And the culprit is HPV i.e. Human Papilloma Virus.
HPV infection is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections in the world today. In most cases the infections do not readily present with clinical symptoms. In some cases the infection leads to cervical cancer, as well as genital warts, and cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and the head and neck.
Mind boggling? Well here is a short-sweet-simple guide to all you need to know about HPV and how to protect yourself from it. Spread the word after you read this, ‘cause you never know, you just may save a life, including your own!
After the dry facts, it’s time for some myth busting:
Myth #1: Only women can get HPV.
Myth Buster: That’s so not true. Guys, you cannot have all the fun always! Men can get HPV too. Any sexually active person can contract HPV, even if the person has had only one sexual partner.
Myth #2: All strains (types) of HPV cause cancer.
Myth Buster: Nope, again an untruth. Only high risk types 16 and 18 cause cancer and the remaining cause infections that will go away by themselves in a couple of years and will not cause disease.
Myth #3: Having protected sex means you will never contract HPV.
Myth Buster: This seems like a no brainer, but hey, I am sorry to burst your bubble. Using condoms will lower the risk of contracting HPV, but not fully protect you.
Myth #4: Genital warts caused by HPV will lead to cancer. Your life will be over before it started!
Myth Buster: Relax. This is absolutely not true. High risk strains of HPV cause cervical cancer whereas low risks strains cause genital warts which may not cause any symptoms at all.
So after getting stressed out after reading about HPV infections and their implications, take a deep breath and chill, because an easy way to detect HPV infection exists:
Papanicolau Smear: Sounds fancy? It’s abbreviated as Pap smear (which is much easier to pronounce, yes). Cells are collected from the cervix and examined for cancerous or pre-cancerous changes, and this is treated if detected early.
According to the age old saying, prevention is better than cure. So keep these tips in mind to prevent HPV infections:
- Abstinence of all sexual activity, even skin to skin contact. Meaning no cuddling. If you are wearing clothes, it is a different story.
- If the above is not possible (which it most probably isn’t), have only one ‘cuddling’ partner.
- Use condoms. Have PROTECTED sex. Reduce your risk of getting most STDs.
- Regular screening by Pap testing. This is, of course, for women 25 years and above.
- Vaccination by any of the two vaccines for HPV: Gardasil and Cervarix. In fact, our very own KMC has a HPV vaccination program, which its female students can avail. Three doses are administered over a specific time period at a nominal cost. It has been quite successful and efforts are on to implement it in other colleges as well.
If prevention fails, then cure is the only option, obviously. So here are the treatment modalities for HPV infections:
- Mostly the infection is self-limiting (meaning that you can breathe a sigh of relief, because it will go away on its own)
- Testing positive for HPV means that close monitoring will be needed by means of regular pap smears, to detect abnormal cells ASAP. (ASAP meaning As Soon As Possible, surely you did not think its medical jargon?)
- Cryotherapy, which makes use of extreme cold, and various chemicals like Podophyllin are used for genital warts.
- Co-existing conditions like diabetes, smoking, Vitamin A deficiency, and having another STD can alter the outcome of the treatment. (Basically it will all be downhill and the treatment will go for a toss.)
Thus, avoid HPV as best as you can,
Whether you are a woman or a man.
Practice the necessary precautions,
In all the right proportions.
Smile and live life,
HPV shall cause you no strife.
Stay safe, alert and aware,
And in future you will not have a HPV scare.
Hope that helped you. Stay alert, stay safe and spread the word!
Tiny, tiny viruses can impact your live in more ways than one. But don’t try to search for them! Just steer clear