23 February 2009

Preventing HPV Diseases

Medical experts have already ascertained that cervical cancer is predominantly caused by certain types of a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that affects both females and males. There are more than 100 types of HPV that can affect different areas of the body. Most types are relatively harmless —like the ones that cause common warts on hands and feet.

However, getting the facts about HPV and the diseases it causes is the first step toward helping to protect against it.

What is HPV?
  • Over 100 types of HPV have been identified. Most are relatively harmless, causing skin warts (kulugo) commonly found on the hands and feet.

  • In most cases, HPV is cleared by the body’s immune system. In people who do not clear the virus, however, the health consequences depend on the type of HPV involved.

  • About 30 HPV types affect the genital area:

    • “Low-risk” types (6 and 11) can cause genital warts and abnormal cervical changes that result in abnormal Pap tests

    • “High-risk” types (16 and 18) can cause cervical cancer and abnormal cervical changes that sometimes lead to cancer

  • HPV 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts cases.

  • HPV 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer cases.

  • At least 50% of sexually-active people will get genital HPV infection. Most will not know they are infected.

  • Of the estimated 50 percent to 80 percent of women who will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime, up to half will be infected with a high-risk HPV type.
How is HPV infection spread?
  • HPV infection is transmitted mainly through sexual contact.

  • Sexual contact is not limited to penetrative sex but also includes any direct skin-to-skin contact such as:

    • Oral sex
    • Anal sex
    • Any other contact involving the genital area, including hand-to-genital contact

  • HPV infection, specifically recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), can also be passed on by a mother to her baby during childbirth (vertical transmission).
Who is at risk for HPV infection?
  • Everyone is at risk, but the following are at greater risk:


    • Young age (peak 20-24 years)
    • Young age at first sexual intercourse
    • Greater number of lifetime and recent sex partners
    • Sex with a new partner
    • Male partner sexual history
    • Uncircumcised male partner


    • Young age (peak 20-24 years)
    • Greater number of lifetime and recent sex partners
    • Being uncircumcised
Detecting HPV and the Diseases it Causes

Learning about human papillomavirus (HPV) and the diseases it can cause is key, but nothing replaces doctor consultations.

Pap Test

Why is Regular Pap Screening Important?
  • Up to 80% of women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap test within 5 years prior to being diagnosed. Many have never had a Pap test at all.

  • Undergoing regular Pap tests can detect early, pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix.

  • With early detection, the chances of treatment success are higher.
When should Women go for a Pap Test?
  • Women should undergo a Pap test approximately 3 years after
    initiation of sexual intercourse (sexual debut) or at 21 years of age—whichever comes first.

  • Women less than 30 years of age should undergo an annual Pap test.

  • Women 30 years of age and older should undergo a Pap test every year. Those who have had 3 consecutive negative Pap tests may go for subsequent Pap tests every 2-3 years.

  • Women who have had negative results in both Pap and HPV DNA tests should be re-screened no more frequently than every 3 years.
PAP Tests Save Lives

Having regular Pap test is one of the best ways to help protect against cervical cancer in the future. A Pap test can't diagnose HPV. But it can look for abnormal cells (that are caused by HPV) in the lining of the cervix before the cells become pre-cancers or cancer.

For girls who are not old enough for a Pap test, regular wellness visits are a good way to start lifelong, healthy habits.

HPV Vaccination has been recommended

Both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College Health Association have recommended HPV vaccination.

For more information, log on to www.hpv.com.ph.