Human Papilloma Virus
In addition to causing cervical cancer, HPV is also the most common cause of warts on the skin in children. The infection is extremely common and was estimated to cause more than 6 million infections in Americans in the year 2000.
HPV is not unique in the respect that an infection can lead to cancer. Other viruses can also cause cancer in humans. The hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer, HIV can cause a rare type of skin cancer, and the Epstein-Barr virus can cause throat cancer and a certain type of lymphoma.
There are more than 100 strains of human papilloma virus. The strains are quite distinct, and each specializes in a particular type of infection. Some types are responsible for causing common warts on the hands and feet of children, while other strains cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Even though common warts are contagious, they tend to be a lot less contagious than genital warts.
While most HPV infection does not lead to cancer, the most serious complication from the infection is, of course, cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancers are triggered by HPV infection. Cervical cancer can usually be detected early if women have routine annual Pap smear screening, and this is the reason why most cervical cancers are not fatal. However, in the absence of regular screening, cervical cancer can spread undetected to other parts of the body and become life threatening.
Can the HPV vaccine help prevent cervical cancer for women who have already had sexual intercourse?Even though the HPV vaccine works best for girls who have never had sexual intercourse, it can still benefit those who are already sexually active. The later this vaccine is given after the first sexual encounter, the less helpful it is.
Symptoms of HP V
Most people that contract HPV don't know that they have it because there are often few visible symptoms. Often in females HPV is not discovered until the patient gets an abnormal result on a routine pap smear. A further test is then needed to diagnose if the HPV virus is present.
An individual who has contracted HPV may feel and appear perfectly healthy. The symptoms of the HPV virus include:
Genital warts in, around, and on the vagina, penis, scrotum, and anus (Often the warts are cauliflower shaped)
Some strains of HPV can also cause common warts on other areas of the body such as the hands and feet
The genital warts associated with HPV can show up weeks or even months after sexual contact with a person infected with the HPV virus. The person may not even know he or she is infected and is responsible for the transmission.