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Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women in the world. Every year, 500,000 women are diagnosed with this disease. 250,000 women also die of this disease. About 80 percent of all patients are seen in developing countries. The only reason for these unbelievable figures is a virus called HPV that causes cervical cancer. To date, there was no chance of protection from this deadly virus. However, with Pap Smear and HPV tests, it is possible to diagnose pre-cancerous diseases and HPV infection and treat the disease before cancer occurs.
By preventing HPV infections in the cervix and the pre-cancerous diseases associated with them, cervical cancer formation can be prevented. Since the 1990s, experts who have sought ways to fight this virus have developed the vaccine, which can eventually be called a revolution in medicine.
After 15 years of research, it was shown that HPV infections and cervical diseases can be prevented by vaccines developed. In this way, cervical cancers will be prevented. The vaccines were developed against two types of HPV that cause cancer and two types of HPV that cause warts. In the current clinical trials, vaccines were administered to women aged 9-25 years. HPV and precancerous diseases were almost never seen in the vaccinated groups. The benefit of vaccination to other age groups is still under investigation. The vaccine against HPV infection can be considered as a vaccine against cervical cancer. Because there is no cancer without HPV infection. If HPV infection is prevented, cervical cancer is also prevented.
Not every HPV virus causes cancer
There are more than 150 species of HPV. Although the frequency varies from community to community, 5 to 40% of women with sexual life have HPV in their genitalia. From another perspective, women have a 50% chance of contacting HPV throughout life, but contact with HPV does not always cause cancer. HPV infections develop as a result of the contact of the genital area (delivery route, cervix) with HPV. Most HPV infections are transient infections, especially in the 35-40 age group. HPV infection spontaneously heals or disappears within 1 year in most of these women. These are called temporary infections. These HPV infections do not cause cancer. Permanent HPV infections can progress to cancer. As age increases, the probability of spontaneous disappearance of HPV from the genital area decreases. Permanent HPV infections develop into precancerous diseases and then cancer due to unknown genetic and environmental factors, especially smoking. In short, not every HPV infection progresses to cancer. Other factors other than HPV are required to progress to cancer. However, cervical cancer does not occur without HPV infection.
There is also a relationship between HPV types and cancer formation. Approximately 70% of cervical cancers are associated with type 16 and type 18. Vaccines developed against these types of vaccines. The remaining cancers occur with types 31, 45, 33 and other types. In addition, common genital warts in women occur with HPV infections. The types that play a role here are types 6 and 11. These types of HPV do not cause cancer and only contribute to wart formation.
Vaccine against HPV infection
Pap smear tests that detect HPV-related abnormalities in the cervix have been used with increasing frequency since the 1940s. Thanks to this test, the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased by up to 80% over time. Even a lifetime pap smear test reduces the chance of cervical cancer by 50%. In terms of preventive health services, the pap smear tests are very important for the recognition of pre-cancerous diseases and early diagnosis of cancer.
HPV-borne diseases each year create a major health problem worldwide, causing a billion dollars to spend. At the end of 15 years of research, HPV infections with vaccines found; therefore, it has been shown that precancerous diseases and cancers can be prevented. However, it should be remembered that vaccines should continue Pap smear screening because the available vaccines prevent up to 70% of cervical cancers.
Gynecologic Oncology, Gynecology and Obstetrics Specialist, Acıbadem Kozyatağı Hospital Dr. Contact Fuat directly