The two most common cancers for women worldwide are breast cancer and cervical cancer. In fact cervical cancer is the second most common cancer throughout the world. In about 99.7 percent of the cases, HPV and cervical cancer are related. Strain HPV-16 of HPV is known to cause numerous other cancers of the genital region, anus and throat, besides cervical cancer.
Cervical cancers are of two main types. One is known as the squamous cell carcinoma and the other the adenocarcinoma. 90 to 95 percent of the cases report squamous cervical cancer. Screening of such diseases is done through a smear test and colposcopy. Biopsy is also done to identify the cancerous and precancerous cells of the cervix. If adenocarcinoma has occurred, it is the most difficult to distinguish this cancer at the pre-stages.
Facts of HPV and cervical cancer
HPV and cervical cancer are mutually related. The human papillomavirus or HPV was identified as the causative reason of cervical cancer very early on in 1995. There are around 100 different subtypes of the HPV.
Few of the sub types only cause papillomas or skin warts. About 40 different sub types affect the genital areas.
Few of these are low risk viruses for the cervical cancer. For instance, the subtypes HPV 6 and HPV 11 only cause warts in the genital area. High risk HPV includes HPV 18 and HPV 16. These two subtypes together cause squamous cell carcinoma (SSC). At least in 70 percent of the cases, they are responsible. Again, HPV 18 is known to cause adenocarcinoma in 50 percent of the cases.
Even if HPV screening tests are done in any woman and high risks HPV are detected, it does not necessarily mean that these viruses will cause cervical cancer. However, risks of developing cancer increases in such individual.
Most women are able to deal with HPV infection at the initial stages, which means before the virus has been able to successfully incorporate itself within the cervical cells and disrupt the DNA to cause disorders in the cell reproduction.
Screening tests for the HPV virus are carried out through biomolecular testing. Commercially available testing kit, the Digene’s Hybrid Capture II, can also be used. Testing of HPV can be done for research purposes and privately. It is not available with the NHS. If HPV is identified in the patient through colposcopy and smear test, there is no way to confirm whether the HPV is of the low risk subtype or higher risk subtype. So, specific tests are always necessary.
HPV and cervical cancer are related because HPV is transmitted through sexual contact. There are around 30 subtypes of HPV which are transmitted in the process. So, risks of contacting HPV is more if a person routinely engages in sexual activity. However, HPV has also been seen in few women, who have not engaged in any sexual activity.
Treatment of HPV and cervical cancer prevention
HPV and cervical cancer prevention can be done through the use of condoms. However, HPV is present around the entire genitalia and hence complete protection by means of condoms is not possible. Medical treatment of HPV infection is also not available. Vaccination is sometimes done.