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The link between HPV and cervical cancer

Health By Esther Muchene

Some cancers are only specific to women such as ovarian cancer and cervical cancer Image: Charles on Unsplash

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There are many different types of cancers that affect the world's population today. Examples include lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer and many others that affect both men and women and, unfortunately, children too.

While many types of cancers affect both genders, there are cancers that are only specific to women. Because of biological reasons, women are at risk of getting breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer among others.

As we focus on cervical cancer, it’s important to investigate and be aware of it. This way, you’ll be able to understand how it forms, how it affects you as a woman and ways to avoid getting the illness.

One of the main causes of cervical cancer is HPV, fully defined as Human Papilloma Virus. HPV consists of many types of viruses that cause the cells in your body to mutate into cancerous cells.

There are many factors that show the connection between HPV and cervical cancer.

Without getting too technical, we will try to show you how the two are related, and what you can do about it.

HPV consists of many types of viruses that cause the cells in your body to mutate into cancerous cells?. Image: Drew Hays on Unsplash

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What does HPV consist of?

The Human Papilloma Virus consists of a wide range of other viruses. Currently, there are more than 100 viruses that are categorized as HPV. When it comes to cancer, there are high risk ones and low risk ones. The high risk ones are cancerous. They are considered high risk because they are more aggressive than others, and are therefore likely to cause cell mutation. HPV viruses such as type 16 and 18 are responsible for a majority of the cervical cancer cases.

Using condoms lowers your risk of contracting HPV. Image: Joël de Vriend on Unsplash

What are the risk factors?

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Statistics show that millions of people are currently infected, while millions more get infected each year. An alarming report indeed. If you have many sexual partners and don’t use condoms as a method of protection, you are at a high risk of contracting dangerous HPV viruses when you come into contact with an infected person. However, there have been some concerns about certain HPV strains that can pass through the condom rendering the protection useless.

On a normal day, your body should be able to expel low risk HPV viruses within the body. When it comes to the high risk ones, your body won’t be able to get rid of them and they will mutate into deadly cancerous cells.

Other than this, there are other factors that can increase your risk such as poor dietary habits consisting of red meats, smoking and prolonged use of oral contraceptives.

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The vaccine will protect you from getting other strains of the virus. Image: patrick lanza on Unsplash

What are the signs and symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of high risk HPV develop with time. Generally, the virus doesn’t display any symptoms until it has developed into a cancerous state. Some of the main symptoms that need medical attention include bloody discharge or abnormal discharge, bleeding after sex and post-menopausal bleeding.

How can you protect yourself?

The two most effective ways to prevent yourself from getting the virus is by not putting yourself at risk in the first place. Although there are those who advocate for getting the vaccine, vaccines continue to be a touchy and controversial subject that not everyone totally agrees with.

Choose to be in a monogamous relationship and if not, always use a condom to avoid getting infected by someone who has the virus. Which, again, is never a guarantee that you will be 100% protected.

If you already have a certain type of HPV strain, the vaccine won’t be able to cure you from them. However, those behind the vaccine claim that it will protect you from getting other strains of the virus once the vaccine has been administered.

Women are encouraged to go for screening as soon as possible and get the necessary medical attention immediately.

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