Longterm Effects and Life Challenges of HPV

HPV, Human Papillomavirus has over 100 different strains and they are split into low risk and high risk varieties. The low risk strains produce genital warts and the high risk types gender cervical and penile cancers. HPV, once contracted, remains in the body for life. There is no cure for HPV, although many people carry the virus and never have any symptoms. HPV is diagnosed in women through a pap smear which will detect the virus on the cervix. HPV is highly contagious and is spread through close skin-to-skin genital area contact with an infected person.

Lifetime Effects on Both Women & Men

The lifetime effects of HPV for women include blockage of the vaginal opening and is clearly linked to cervical and other cancers such as vaginal, vulva and cancer of the anus. HPV can infect a baby born to an infected mother causing laryngeal HPV which can eventually block its throat. If a man has HPV and it is left untreated, the growths may block both the penile and rectal openings. HPV infections may also be linked to penile and cancer of the anus.

Treatment Options

Available treatments for genital warts do not eliminate the virus from the body but rather they are aimed at removing the warts, which can be very uncomfortable, reducing the number of viral particles and hopefully stimulating the immune system to help control the infection. There are a variety of treatments available, from creams to surgery and the type of treatment regimen used is specific to each person.

CIN - Cervical Dysplasia

Certain HPV strains unrelated to genital warts are associated with Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN), also known as cervical dysplasia. Dysplasia means abnormal cell growth anywhere in the body. If left unchecked and untreated it can possibly progress to cancer. Mild dysplasia often clears on its own, without treatment however if it is severe the chances of cancer are much higher. Dysplasia is identified by a PAP smear and diagnosed with colposcopy, a procedure which views the entire cervix with a special microscope, and may include a biopsy. Abnormal cells are sampled and tested and depending upon what is found, treatment is prescribed.

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate

The advent of the vaccine which addresses four strains of HPV and has been released for use in England and the US, and lately, Canada, seems to have some serious side effects ranging from nausea to paralysis and there are even some concerns about possible deaths related to the vaccine. The intent was to vaccinate young girls, beginning at age 9 through young women aged 26 in order to avoid contracting HPV and hoping to stem the growth rate of cervical cancer. The drug has not been tested effectively on girls under the age of 15 and Dr. Diane M. Harper, director, Dartmouth Medical School`s Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group in New Hampshire warns that mandating the vaccine for girls under the age of 18 may actually backfire, causing cervical cancer rates to go up. More research needs to be completed to know the full range of side effects.