Transmission of HPV does not distinguish between gender

Transmission of HPV does not distinguish between gender, which is why we emphasize vaccination, emphasizes Dra. Ortiz. For the female population there are more options to detect it, but both sexes transmit it. Dr. Alexandra Ortiz Orama, obstetrician-gynecologist at the San Lucas Episcopal Medical Center in Ponce.

During the last decades it has been confirmed that the incidence of the virus is the same in men and women, even though there are no accurate statistics on the percentage of the male population that contracts the virus. However, it is more often diagnosed in sexually active women.

This was indicated by Dr. Alexandra Ortiz Orama, obstetrician gynecologist at the San Lucas Episcopal Medical Center in Ponce, who assured that this Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is one of the most common in young people between 20 and 25 years old.

“We are not detecting the virus in men because we don’t have tests to test them; we don’t have a standardized test for them, only for women. So we only realize that it occurs in women, but men have it. just as often as women,” the expert stressed.

In addition to this, the expert mentioned that the prevalence of HPV diagnosis falls mainly on young women between 20 and 25 years old. This is because, in this reproductive stage, the cervix is ​​exposed to the vagina, so it is easier to contract the virus.

“This is why the test should not be performed before the age of 21, because if we perform the HPV test before that age, the vast majority will come out positive and will lead to a series of psychological problems in young women and the urgency resorting to unnecessary treatment,” he said.

More than 200 strains of Human Papillomavirus have been identified, however, experts highlight the potential risk of strains 16, 18, 6 and 11 as they are closely related to the development of cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer and cancer oral.

“HPV is one of the most common infections in, say, the United States. About 20 million people get it every year, and it’s said that 4 women out of 5 are going to get it at some point in their lives.” , emphasized the expert.

HPV detection: Does not produce symptoms in the initial stage

Diagnosis is usually made as routine procedure that is part of the consultation protocol when women go for gynecological examinations, such as the PAP. Unfortunately, this is the only way to be able to detect the presence of the virus, since there are no blood tests and, therefore, it is only detectable in women.

“People who have it don’t know they have it, and it is detected thanks to common test results. Now, when women have symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain during sexual intercourse, bloody vaginal discharge, among others, may already be signs that the patient is in stage of pre-cancer or cancer of the cervix, caused by HPV,” said Dr. Ortiz.

Once women are diagnosed with HPV, they receive clinical follow-up to identify the behavior of the virus in the patient’s body, and the damage it is doing to the body, if the infection it carries contains the most dangerous strains, among others.

Hence the importance of following the medical recommendations to regularly visit the gynecologist, strengthen the immune system because, in fact, most women can eliminate this virus on their own: “Really, this virus can be eliminated in about 2 years, That is why good health, exercise, nutrition and good sexual practice are important to combat it”.

In addition, it is also pertinent to remember that this virus is highly transmissible and does not necessarily spread through vaginal penetration, but by skin-to-skin contactoral, vaginal or anal intercourse.

HPV prevention campaigns

We must remember that, so far, there is no drug that can completely eliminate the virus. However, if the woman presents alterations in the cancer tests, she can undergo a colposcopy to, again, detail the percentage of damage she has caused in the body. If the virus has already exacerbated to a pre-cancerous stage, the patient may receive treatment such as cryosurgery and removal of the affected area.

The other treatments have a more preventive approach so that the woman tries to eliminate the virus, and prevent it from reaching highly risky stages for her health.

Over the years, vaccination has been improving, although the expert acknowledges that there is still much to be done: “First we had a vaccine against two strains, the second attacked four, and currently the vaccine we have combats 9 high-risk strains “.

Recently, medicine and, above all, the specialty of gynecology celebrated an important milestone in the fight against this virus, which was the expansion of the target group for prevention and immunity that would receive the vaccines, since from 26 years of age, it was expanded to 45 .

“The best age to be vaccinated is 12 years old, before the person is sexually active, because once there is sexual activity, the probability that the person is in contact with the virus is very high,” the specialist confessed.

Constant studies on the subject have proven that the vaccine is highly safe and effective, so there should be no fear regarding its application. In fact, the secondary effects of the vaccine are not serious at all, and neither does it alter health or leave negative effects.

“The receptivity of the vaccines has been good, everyone wants to be vaccinated. There are limitations between medical plans, since it is approved until the age of 45, but the coverage is until the age of 26. After that age, only some specific plans cover it , since the probability that the person is sexually active after the age of 26 is high,” he explained. “If, for example, someone has strain 16, which is the most dangerous, you will have coverage against the other strains. It is also important that patients know that, even if they have the virus, they should be vaccinated.”

General recommendations of the expert for the prevention of HPV

“The most valuable thing is to visit the doctor to do routine tests. We women have some very considerable tests that we must carry out annually, especially mammography after 40. In addition, we must take care of our diet, exercise 3 or 4 times a a week, take vitamin and folic acid in reproductive age, which helps to avoid congenital defects if we become pregnant, such as spina bifida. These are preventive habits that we must follow,” she concluded.

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Prevent Cervical Cancer & HPV

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cervical cancer. However, by getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, if possible, and undergoing regular testing, a person can significantly reduce their risk. Using barrier methods of protection during sexual activity, avoiding smoking, and making certain dietary changes may also be beneficial.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2022, approximately 4,280 femalesTrusted Source will die from cervical cancer in the United States.

Although it is not always possible to prevent cervical cancer, the ACSTrusted Source notes that getting regular tests and receiving the HPV vaccine are the most important steps a person can take to avoid this disease developing.

Testing can allow doctors to identify precancerous changes and provide early treatment. The vaccine helps prevent infection with HPV, which is a virus that can lead to cervical cancer.

This article looks in more detail at what a person can do to help minimize  and prevent the risk of cervical cancer.

Screening for cervical cancer

A person talking to a healthcare professional about how to prevent cervical cancer.

The ACSTrusted Source advises that the best way to ensure that doctors find cervical cancer early is to undergo regular screening tests. A doctor can do an HPV test or a Pap test. Alternatively, they can do both together, which they will refer to as a co-test. People aged 25–65 yearsTrusted Source with a cervix should request an HPV test from a doctor every 5 years or a Pap test every 3 years. Doctors can perform both of these tests at their clinic or office. A person should receive the result within 3 weeksTrusted Source.

HPV test

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HPV is associated with 99%Trusted Source of cervical cancer cases. HPV is an extremely common virus that people can contract through sexual contact. It is important to note that nearly all sexually active people contract HPV and that most casesTrusted Source do not lead to cancer. The immune system usually controls the HPV infection. An HPV test can reveal cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. This gives doctors a chance to treat the cells before they develop further.

PAP test

People sometimes refer to this test as a PAP smear. The test looks for precancerous changes in the cells in the cervix. These cells could become cancerous without treatment. A healthcare professional will use an instrument called a speculum to widen the vagina and then use a swab to collect a sample from the cervix. They will send the cells to a laboratory for analysis.

How to get a cervical screening to prevent HPV

A person can contact their local doctor’s office to inquire about cervical screening. Alternatively, they can make an appointment with Planned Parenthood here. The Centers for Disease Control and Development (CDC)Trusted Source note that those with a low income or without insurance may qualify for free or low cost screening tests through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP).

The CDCTrusted Source advises that, alongside screening, getting an HPV vaccine is the most important thing someone can do to prevent cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

Preteens aged 11–12 years and everyone under the age of 26 years should get the HPV vaccine. People may need two or three doses, depending on their age.

Although doctors do not typically recommend the vaccine for those older than 26 years, some people aged 27–45 years may choose to get the vaccine after consulting a doctor.

Some people may have heard reports about safety concerns relating to the Gardasil vaccine. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source has concluded that the vaccine is safe and that its benefits outweigh any risks.

Learn more about the HPV vaccine.

How to get the vaccine

A person can get the HPV vaccine at their local clinic, health department, or Planned Parenthood health center.

According to Planned Parenthood, the average cost of a single dose is $250. However, many health insurance companies will cover the cost of the HPV vaccine for those who are eligible.

A person without insurance can ask a doctor or nurse for information on how to get the HPV vaccine at a lower cost.

The federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC)Trusted Source program covers vaccine costs for children and teenagers who have no insurance or insufficient insurance.

Using barrier protection methods during sexual activity

The HPV infection spreads through sexual contact.

According to the National Cancer InstituteTrusted Source, the risk of HPV infection is higher in females who became sexually active before the age of 18 years and in those who have had six or more sexual partners.

Using a barrier method of birth control, such as a condom or dental dam, helps protect against HPV infection.

However, it is important to note that a person can still getTrusted Source HPV from the areas that the condom or dental dam does not cover, such as the genital skin or the area around the anus.

Avoiding smoking

The CDCTrusted Source explains that smoking can cause different types of cancer, including cervical cancer.

Toxic substances in tobacco smoke can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to kill cancer cells. Additionally, these poisons can damage or change the cell’s DNA, causing a tumor to start developing. Avoding smoking will help prevent HPV

2019 studyTrusted Source also found that passive smoking and having a sexual partner who smokes may contribute to cervical cancer risk.

Nicotine and other substances in tobacco may pass to the cervix through semen, compromising the immune system and the body’s ability to defend itself against cancer.

Diet

The author of a 2019 reviewTrusted Source examined the dietary components that may protect against HPV and cervical cancer. They noted that the following can help protect against HPV infection:

  • antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, in fruits and vegetables
  • polyphenols, flavonoids, lycopene, and sulforaphane in plant foods and teas
  • folate, calcium, and vitamin D
  • nuts and legumes

Another studyTrusted Source in China found that a low intake of certain nutrients — folate, niacin, and vitamins B6, C, and K — was associated with a higher risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).

CIN2 cells are moderatelyTrusted Source abnormal cells that are present on the surface of the cervix. These cells are not yet cancerous, but they can become cancerous.

In addition, research suggests that people should avoid:

Higher glycemic index (GI) foods

Research from 2020Trusted Source notes that the consumption of low GI foods can play a role in preventing cervical cancer.

Experts advise that regular screening may help prevent cervical cancer from developing or detect it in its early stages.

In addition, getting an HPV vaccine can protect people from contracting this common virus through sexual contact. HPV can lead to cervical cancer.

People can lower their risk of developing cervical cancer by using barrier protection methods during sexual activity and avoiding smoking.

Furthermore, eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet can provide antioxidants to help the immune system protect against HPV.

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