Every day, cervical cancer kills 17 women in our country. Including very young ones. But there is a way to permanently change this terrible statistic: simply vaccinate against HPV (human papillomavirus), which in 80% of cases causes this disease.
Our expert - gynecologist, associate professor, deputy director for educational and methodological work of the Interregional Center for Continuing Professional Education, representative of the Guild of Specialists in Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI), in the Urals, RF expert on human papillomavirus infection, Doctor of Medical Sciences Irina Kononova...
Elena Nechaenko, "AiF Health": It is believed that most people have HPV. But if everyone is infected, then maybe this virus does not pose a big danger?
Irina Kononova: Indeed, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (more than 660 million people in the world are infected with it). At a young age, the prevalence of the virus is highest. And despite the fact that in half of the infected, the virus itself is eliminated from the body, in the second half it causes a number of dangerous diseases.
- That is, not only cervical cancer is associated with this infection?
- According to the World Health Organization, HPV-associated diseases account for more than 10% of all malignant neoplasms localized in the cervix, rectum, anus, larynx, pharynx, vulva, and penis. Moreover, over the past 20 years, the number of HPV-associated diseases in women and men in Russia has grown significantly.
- How does the infection take place? Is it only through sexual contact? And is it true that a condom does not work?
- The main route of infection is any sexual contact. Using condoms correctly can reduce the risk, but it will not completely protect against infection. There are also other ways of transmission of the virus: from mother to newborn, through microtrauma of the skin and mucous membranes. At the same time, it does not matter for infection whether the partner has visible signs of infection (condyloma) or not. Most infected individuals have no idea that they are infected and may unknowingly spread the virus.
If only I would not wake up
- How soon after infection HPV is found in the tests? And what tests are needed?
- To detect HPV, it is necessary to submit material for the detection of virus DNA by PCR. This infection can be detected almost immediately after infection. However, at the same time, a positive test result for HPV does not mean that a person is sick. After all, the virus can doze in the body for a long time, being in an inactive state and without causing a disease. In addition, it is known that not all HPV strains are dangerous, but only certain, oncogenic ones. As already mentioned, in half of the cases the virus is eliminated from the body itself, but in every second it remains for a long time. This is an important point. The longer the virus remains dormant in the body, the higher the risk of its activation, that is, the occurrence of various precancerous conditions and cancer. Symptoms in this case may be (in the form of genital warts on the skin and mucous membranes), but also they may not be.
- If warts nevertheless appeared - what to do with them?
- First of all, it is important to know that there is no virus-specific treatment for HPV infections. All we can do is to identify the diseases themselves caused by HPV and eliminate their consequences. If you do not treat, for example, condylomatosis, the risk of cancer increases 10 times. Among the methods of treating the genital warts themselves: medication, minimally invasive and surgical, which are often combined with each other.
Get vaccinated and live in peace
- How often and who needs to be tested for HPV? Can this analysis replace other types of surveys?
- There are no strict indications for passing an analysis for HPV, since it is informative only in combination with other types of research. Women under 30 years of age are recommended to do it with visible changes in the cervix and with poor results of a cytological study, carried out 1 time in 3 years as part of a clinical examination. For women over 30, it is advisable to conduct a simultaneous study once every 3 years - to pass cytology (preferably liquid, it is more informative) and analysis for HPV (preferably by PCR).
- If the analysis for cytology showed a poor result, and the analysis for HPV revealed oncogenic strains, what can be done in this case?
- For further diagnostics, a colposcopy is required. With its help, it is possible not only to describe the visible area of the lesion, but also to take a biopsy of the affected tissue for histological examination under the control of a colposcope. Based on the results obtained, a decision is made on the excision of the affected area. But, since a person does not develop immunity to HPV, the process may reoccur (and occurs in more than half of women). Therefore, the only way to protect yourself from the disease is through vaccination.
- Who needs the vaccine, what does it give and at what age is it not too late to do it?
- Almost everyone needs the HPV vaccine - both women and men, since there is no other protection against the virus, since the virus does not enter the bloodstream and does not cause the formation of protective antibodies. According to WHO recommendations, the optimal age for vaccination is 9-14 years, that is, the period before sexual activity. Vaccination is indicated for both girls and boys, since both women and men have a risk of oncology. Adults up to 45 years old can also be vaccinated. Since the body does not develop immunity to the virus, it is not necessary to be tested for HPV beforehand. If there is already a precancerous disease or cancer, then within 3 weeks after treatment, it is advisable to get such an inoculation so that the antibodies formed prevent new infection and relapse of the disease.
- What, besides vaccination, helps to protect against cervical cancer?
- For the development of a disease, one virus is often not enough, it is also necessary for other risk factors to converge: smoking, stress, occupational hazards, various diseases, especially hormonal ones, a violation of the vaginal microbiota, promiscuous sex life. A healthy lifestyle helps reduce your risk. Although there is a predisposition to the perception of the virus, genetic factors. At the moment, it is only possible to radically prevent the disease or its relapse by vaccination, which promotes the formation of antibodies to the main types of viruses that cause cervical cancer.
There are contraindications. Be sure to consult your doctor