HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV)
HPV infection commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). Certain types of HPV infection cause cervical cancers. More than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) exist. Different types of HPV infection cause warts on different parts of your body. For example, some types of HPV infection cause plantar warts on the feet, while others cause warts that mostly appear on the face or neck.
DOES HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV) LEAD TO CANCER?
Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer. But some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix). Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat (oropharyngeal), have been linked to HPV infection.
Contagious warts spread by skin contact with a wart or with something that touched the wart.
SYMPTOMS OF HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV)
Warts on the different regions of the body depending on the time of HPV infection. There can appear the following:
- Genital warts: May appear as flat lesions, tiny stem-like protrusions or small cauliflower-like bumps. In women, genital warts appear mostly on the vulva but can also occur on the cervix, near the anus or in the vagina. Genital warts in men appear on the penis and scrotum or around the anus. In most cases, genital warts won’t cause any discomfort or pain. They may however become itchy.
- Common warts: May appear rough, raised bumps and generally occur on the finger, hands or elbows. In most cases, common warts are simply unattractive. However, they can cause pain or be susceptible to injury or bleeding.
- Plantar warts: They are hard, grainy growths that generally appear on the heels or balls of the feet and may cause discomfort.
- Flat warts: They are dark, flat-topped, slightly raised skin lesions. They may appear anywhere. Children usually get them on the face. Men also tend to get them in the beard area and women get them on the legs.
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV)
- Vaccination is a great option to prevent HPV: All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including people living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.
Medications to eliminate warts are typically applied directly to the lesion and usually take multiple applications before the warts are successfully treated. Some examples include:
- Salicylic acid: Over-the-counter treatments that contain salicylic acid work by gradually removing the layers of the wart over time. For use on common warts, salicylic acid can cause skin irritation and should not be used on your face.
- Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara): This prescription cream may enhance your immune system’s ability to fight HPV. Common side effects of this medication include redness and swelling at the site of the application.
- Podofilox (Condylox): This topical prescription, podofilox works by destroying the tissue of the genital wart. Podofilox may cause pain and itching at the site of application.
- Trichloroacetic acid: This treatment chemically burns off warts on the palms, soles and genitals and may cause irritation at the site of application.
SURGICAL AND OTHER PROCEDURES
If medications don’t work, your doctor might suggest removing the warts by one of the following methods:
- Cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen)
- Electrocautery (Burning with an electrical current)
- Surgical removal
- Laser surgery
DIAGNOSING HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS (HPV)
- Physical examination: A physical examination often is the only test needed to diagnose genital warts.
- Pap smear: Your doctor collects a sample of cells from your cervix or vagina to send for laboratory analysis. Pap tests can reveal abnormalities that can lead to cancer.
- DNA test: This test, conducted on cells from your cervix, can recognize the DNA of the high-risk varieties of HPV that have been linked to genital cancers. It’s recommended for women 30 and older in addition to the Pap test.
- HPV test: finds the virus that causes the abnormal cell changes. There is currently no HPV test for men. But men can be reassured by the fact that HPV almost always goes away without causing any problems.