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Role of Human Papilloma Virus in Cervical Cancer

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The human papillomavirus is the major contributor to the spread of cervical cancer. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Published At December 19, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 19, 2022

What Is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Globally, the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection affects around 14,000,000 people annually, with a lifetime infection risk of more than 80 %. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) virus member of the papillomavirus family. The small double-stranded circular DNA virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), has a genome of about 8000 base pairs. The only tissue in which the human papillomavirus (HPV) replicates is the basal cells of the stratified epithelium.

What Are the Types Of Human Papillomavirus?

More than 200 related viruses, most through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, are collectively referred to as papillomavirus (HPV). There are two sexually transmitted HPV types: low risk and high risk.

  • Low-Risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV)- This causes no illness; however, some varieties of the virus can result in warts around the genitalia, anus, mouth, or neck.

  • High-Risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV)- High-risk HPVs can bring on numerous cancers. About 14 HPV varieties, including HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, and 68, are considered high-risk. The majority of HPV-related malignancies are caused by two of these, HPV16 and HPV18.

What Is the Incidence of Human Papillomavirus?

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is widespread: within a few months to a few years of engaging in sexual activity, almost anyone who is sexually active contracts HPV.

  • These infections have a high-risk HPV type in about half of the cases.

  • Men and women can contract human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and malignancies brought on by the virus.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 36,000 new HPV cases are responsible for around five percent of all malignant; thus, an estimated 570,000 women and 60,000 men develop HPV-related cancer each year.

How Can the Human Papillomavirus Lead to Cervical Cancer?

  • Cervical cancer is one of the most common malignancies and the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities.

  • When high-risk HPV infects cells, it obstructs the methods by which these cells communicate with one another, leading to excessive cell proliferation.

  • The immune system typically recognizes and suppresses these contaminated cells.

  • In some instances, the infected cells persist and expand further, eventually forming a cluster of precancerous cells that, if left untreated, can develop into cancer.

  • According to studies, HPV-infected cervical cells can take between 10 and 20 years—or even longer—to develop into a malignant tumor.

Does the Human Papillomavirus Always Lead to Cancer?

  • Most HPV infections do not result in cancer; usually, the immune system prevents human papillomavirus (HPV) infections from leading to cancer.

  • However, persistent high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infections can result in cancer.

  • Long-term, high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infections can cause cell alterations if left untreated and could eventually worsen and develop into cancer.

Which Cancer Is Caused by Human Papillomavirus Infection?

Adenocarcinomas are cervical cancers caused by HPV infection of gland cells in the cervix. Long-term infections with high-risk HPV can lead to cancer in various areas of the body, such as the cervix, oropharynx, tongue, soft palate, and throat. HPV affects squamous cells lining the inner surfaces of these organs. As a result, the vast majority of HPV-related cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Cancers caused by HPV include:

Cervical Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for nearly all cervical malignancies.

  • Routine screening can prevent the precancerous cells before they become malignant.

Cancers of the Oropharynx:

  • Most of the malignancies of the throat (the tonsils or the back of the tongue) are caused by HPV.

  • Each year, new cases rise, and oropharyngeal malignancies are now the most frequent HPV-related malignancy.

Anal Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for more than 90 % of anal cancers.

  • Women are twice as likely as men.

Penile Cancer:

  • HPV causes most penile malignancies (over 60 %), a rare type of cancer.

Vulvar Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for 70 % of vulvar malignancies.

How Does Human Papillomavirus Spread?

The infection is easily transmitted between sexual partners. HPV is easily transmitted between sexual partners through any intimate skin-to-skin contact, including:

  1. Vaginal-penile intercourse.

  2. Penile-anal sex.

  3. Penile-oral sex.

  4. Vaginal-oral sex.

  5. The use of sex toys or other objects.

Is Human Papillomavirus Infection Associated With Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

In most cases, high-risk HPV infection does not result in symptoms.

  • The precancerous cell alterations caused by a chronic HPV infection at the cervix seldom elicit symptoms. Thus, regular cervical cancer screening is critical.

  • Some of the symptoms may be itching or bleeding.

  • In addition, if an HPV infection progresses to cancer, it may cause symptoms such as bleeding, discomfort, or swollen glands.

What Are the Risk Factors of HPV Infections in Cervical Cancer?

  • Various factors raise the likelihood of high-risk HPV infection in precancerous cervical cells. These consist of a particularly aggressive HPV type, such as HPV 16 or HPV 18.

  • Smoking tobacco can harm the body's defense against HPV.

  • A compromised immune system or medications that suppress the immune system may also be a risk factor for HPV infections.

How Can Cervical Cancer by Human Papillomavirus Infections Be Prevented?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines:

  • These vaccines can prevent cancer and infections, averting many genital warts and malignancies associated with HPV.

  • HPV vaccination offers significant protection against new HPV infections.

  • However, it is only for prevention; it does not treat disease once it has occurred.

  • It is predicted that HPV immunization can prevent up to 90 % of HPV-related malignancies.

Condoms and Dental Dams:

  • Using condoms and dental dams during oral or penile sexual intercourse can reduce the likelihood of HPV transmission but does not entirely prevent it.

Who Should Be Vaccinated Against Human Papillomavirus?

  • HPV vaccination is suggested for young people up to the age of 26.

  • The HPV vaccine series is advised for males and females since both might acquire malignancies of the mouth and throat, anal cancers, and genital warts.

  • Cervical cancer is also a concern for women, while penile cancer is a risk for men.

  • Vaccination can also help to limit the spread of HPV, which causes cancer.

Can the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Be Administered at an Older Age?

  • Adults between 27 and 45 who have not received vaccinations can obtain the vaccine.

  • Adults in this age range benefit less from the vaccine because they have already been exposed to HPV.

  • As a result, immunization is not usually recommended for people of this age.

  • However, this vaccine can provide immunity against any new HPV infection; thus, older people can benefit from it.

How Is Human Papillomavirus Testing Done?

Cervical Cancer Screening:

  • Cervical cancer screening tests are conducted to detect high-risk HPV in cervical cells.

  • Cervical cancer screening aims to detect precancerous cell alterations before they develop into cancer and when therapy can prevent cancer.

  • Cervical cancer screening is an essential aspect of routine health care for women and homosexual males with cervixes.

The Pap Smear Test:

  • This test is conducted for all cervical cell alterations caused by high-risk HPV.

  • Cervical cancer is currently the only HPV-related cancer for which FDA-approved screening tests are available.

What Is the Treatment for Human Papillomavirus Infection in Cervical Cancer?

The cure for high-risk HPV infection is not yet established; however, the human papillomavirus infection can be treated.

Treatment options for genital warts and precancerous vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal lesions include:

  1. Topical medications.

  2. Surgical removal.

  3. Cryosurgery.

  4. Laser therapy.

  5. The loop electrosurgical excision treatment (LEEP) - It is a technique to remove abnormal tissue.

Conclusion:

Human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cervical cancer is a common illness globally. With the development of HPV vaccines, it has become possible to eliminate this cancer. They have an excellent safety profile and are known for their strong efficacy. Herd protection ensures that HPV-related lesions will decline in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Furthermore, it is critical to stress that immunization may not be a substitute for screening. In actuality, routine cervical cancer screenings should be performed on both vaccinated and non-vaccinated women. Additionally, educational initiatives need to be strengthened.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Is the Significant Cause of Cervical Cancer?

The main cause of cervical cancer is HPV (human papillomavirus). Cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lowest part of the uterus that connects to the vagina—various strains of the human papillomavirus cause most cervical cancer. The cervical cells become cancerous cells. They transmit the infection through skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, oral, anal, and vaginal sex, and sharing sex toys. It is a sexually transmitted virus.

2.

How Serious Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer can be cured if the treatment starts very early. Cancer grows very slowly. The abnormal cells in the cervix can be detected through a pap test. Cancer can be prevented by removing these cells in the first place. Mostly, it is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV infection). It easily gets transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. If left untreated, the patient can die. After the introduction of the pap test, death has been significantly reduced.

3.

Can Cervical Cancer Be Cured?

Cervical cancer is curable condtion. Often, the treatment depends on the size and shape of cervical cancer, the patient’s general health, and the spread's severity. The treatment usually includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. It can also be treated with targeted drug therapy that attacks explicitly the proteins on the virus's surface. Surgery is the primary treatment if the cancer is diagnosed early.

4.

How to Test for Cervical Cancer at Home?

In HPV DNA, self-screening samples are collected to detect high-risk HPV genotypes that see 13 high-risk HPV types. A swab is inserted a few centimeters into the vagina and is rotated for 30 seconds. Once the sample is ready, it is sent to a lab or sometimes collected from home. The lab gives the reports after the test. 

5.

Who Is at High Risk for Cervical Cancer?

The following are the risk factors for cancer-
- Human papillomavirus is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer.
- Having sex and being sexually active from the age of 18.Smoking.
- A weakened immune system like those with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
- Having multiple sex partners.

6.

How Painful Is Cervical Cancer?

Initially, cancer does not cause pain, but in later stages of life, cancer progresses and spreads to nearby tissues and organs. In later stages, the people feel unwell and lose their appetite. As cancer progresses to nearby tissues, the person can experience pain in the pelvis and during urination.

7.

At What Age Does Cervical Cancer Occur?

Cervical cancer occurs mostly after 30 years of age. The occurrence of cancer below 25 years is very low. Four out of every people are diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 45. The average age of diagnosis is 50 years in women. Human papillomavirus causes all cervical cancers.

8.

At What Age Does Cervical Cancer Occur?

Cervical cancer occurs mostly after 30 years of age. The occurrence of cancer below 25 years is very low. Four out of every people are diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 45. The average age of diagnosis is 50 years in women. Human papillomavirus causes all cervical cancers.

9.

What Is the Diagnostic Test for Cervical Cancer?

- Cervical cancer screening tests are conducted to detect high-risk HPV in cervical cells.
- Cervical cancer screening aims to detect precancerous cell alterations before they develop into cancer and when therapy can prevent cancer.
- Cervical cancer screening is essential to routine health care for women and homosexual males with cervixes.
 
The Pap Smear Test:
- This test is conducted for all cervical cell alterations caused by high-risk HPV.
- Cervical cancer is currently the only HPV-related cancer for which FDA-approved screening tests are available.

10.

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer Naturally?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines:
- The vaccines prevent infections, treating genital warts and cancers associated with HPV.
- Human papilloma vaccination is a significant protection against new human papillomavirus infections.
- It does not treat disease once it is cured.
- Human papilloma immunization prevents up to 90 % of Human papillomavirus-related cancers.
Condoms and Dental Dams:
- Using condoms and dental dams during penile sexual intercourse or oral sex can reduce the likelihood of Human Papilloma Virus transmission but does not entirely prevent it.

11.

Where Does Cervical Cancer Start?

- Cervical cancer occurs in the cervix, which is the lowest part of the vagina.
- When exposed to HPV, the body's immune system gets activated, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer. 
- The body’s immune system prevents the virus that causes cervical cells to become cancer.
- Anyone can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by taking screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection.

12.

Can a Gynecologist Detect Cervical Cancer?

Yes, gynecologists can detect cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening detects high-risk human papillomavirus. It is an essential aspect of routine health care for males with cervixes (homosexual males).

13.

How Can Blood Tests Detect Cervical Cancer?

A complete blood count is a part of the cervical cancer diagnosis. It is an important test that is a part of cervical cancer testing. It shows the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood. High levels of platelets and white blood cells indicate cervical cancer. This test also indicates how well organs function and how far the disease has progressed.

14.

Can Ultrasound Detect Cervical Cancer?

Ultrasound is not the most preferred option for detecting cervical cancer, and there are more reliable ways to diagnose cervical cancer. The doctor screens for cervical cancer through regular exams like pap smears and human papillomavirus (HPV). An ultrasound is not a very common choice for detecting cancer. The more reliable ways of detecting cancer are colposcopy, biopsy, pap smear test, and HPV test.

15.

How Common Is Cervical Cancer?

In the USA, each year, 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are detected. Practicing safe sex, regular gynecological exams and regular pap tests are important steps for preventing cervical cancer. It mostly affects people between the ages of 35 and 45. In the USA, approximately 4,000 people die of cervical cancer per year. 
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Dr. Rajesh Gulati
Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Family Physician

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