An overview of cancers caused by an HPV infection

HPV or human papillomavirus is passed from one person to another through skin contact. With more than 150 different types of HPV, it is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. Most women and men might not show HPV cancer symptoms. However, certain strains of HPV might cause warts on various parts of the body. Other types of strains might cause pre-cancerous lesions, which can turn cancerous if not treated in time.

An infection caused by HPV can cause cancer symptoms, such as warts on the hands and feet. However, there are at least 40 other strains of viruses of HPV that can cause cancerous symptoms in the genital and oral area. It is commonly caused due to oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

In women, genital HPV can cause cancerous symptoms on both the outer and the inner surface of the vagina. It can also affect the penile and anal area in men. The strains of HPV that infects the genital area in the form of warts or lesions are commonly referred to as HPV-16 or HPV-18. These particular types of HPV cause warts varying in shape, size, and number, rarely leading to cancer. Other than these, HPV 6 and HPV 11 are “low-risk” infections that cause warts on the hands or the legs.

Most people with a healthy immune system are able to get rid of the infection without any serious health complications. However, “high-risk” HPV can cause a lasting infection, which over the course of years can cause pre-cancerous symptoms.

Types of cancers caused by an HPV

Oral cancer
It includes cancer of the mouth and the tongue. It can also cause cancer of the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat including the tip of tonsils and voice box. Changes in sexual behavior can contribute to oral cancer in both the genders.

Cervical cancer
This is the most common form of cancer caused because of an HPV. Almost 70% of cervical cancers are caused due to HPV virus strain 16 and 18. Smoking also increases the risk of suffering from cervical cancer as it weakens the immune system.

Managing the symptoms of cancer caused by an HPV
There are vaccines available to reduce the risk of suffering from HPV cancers but cannot cure an existing infection. While it is difficult to cure cancer, doctors usually treat to reduce HPV cancer symptoms caused by an HPV infection. Pre-cancerous lesions and warts are removed using the following ways:

  • Freezing techniques
  • Surgery
  • Medicated creams that can be applied topically on genital warts
  • Electrosurgical excision procedure that uses electric currents for removing abnormal tissues

Hence, it is necessary to consult an oncologist for appropriate treatment after noticing symptoms of HPV infection as they can turn pre-cancerous if overlooked.

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