- Understanding what HPV – human papillomavirus – is essential to curb and prevent the virus from being transmitted from one person to another.
- Regular screenings play a major role in detecting any anomalies and infections that may usually go undetected.
Kuala Lumpur, January 29 – When taking care of one’s health, one would know their own body best as they would be sensitive to the changes and differences experienced. However, how often does one look down below or pay attention to their genital area to ensure that their body is functioning well, with nothing out of the ordinary?
Although there is some reservation surrounding discussion on seeking for help with issues relating to the genital area, it is important to know how HPV can be transmitted from one person to another and what are the steps that can reduce the chances of transmission.
Globally, HPV is responsible for up to 99% cervical cancer cases, 85-90% anal cancer cases, 70-78% of vaginal cancer cases, and about 90% of genital warts.
Dr Ashley Chung Soo Bee, Fertility Specialist and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV) explains that there are 40 genital HPV types, and a majority of these strains do not cause problems, with low-risk HPV infections usually clearing up without intervention within months.
“However, there are 14 types of HPV classified as oncogenic and are associated with anogenital cancer. Through our experience with patients and other researches, we are aware that cervical cancer is a consequence of long term or persistent oncogenic HPV infection,” she says.
HPV is sexually transmitted, however, penetrative sexual intercourse is not required for transmission. HPV can be transmitted from one person to another through skin to skin genital contact as well.
“HPV affects both men and women differently, so do set up a gynaecology consultation if you experience certain clinical symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, postcoital bleeding (bleeding after sex), postmenopausal bleeding and painful sex, as these may be early signs of pre-cancerous or cancerous conditions,” Dr Ashley stresses.
Preventive measures and caring for one’s health
Once an infection has been identified, there are several ways to improve your health. Dr Nor Elyana Noordin, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from SMCV notes that while abstaining from sexual activities is the best way to avoid any form of infection, it was not the most realistic.
“If you are sexually active, there are ways to lower your chances of getting or spreading HPV. The first is to get the HPV vaccine – HPV vaccination is being given at public schools for those at the age of 13 years old. Practice safe sex and use condoms or dental damns when you have vaginal, anal or oral sex to prevent transmission of the infection where you can,” she says.
It is also important to note that the HPV vaccine does not protect one against HPV infections that are already present at the time of vaccination but can reduce the occurrence of genital warts and development of cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers.
Dr Ashley also stresses the importance of routine check-ups and screenings especially for females, such as pap smears for sexually active women from 25-65 years of age.
“Routine screening is recommended for females, such as pap smear for early detection of cervical cell changes, as cell changes could indicate HPV infection and in long term it might progress to cervical cancer. If there are cell changes in pap smear (abnormal pap smear result), regular follow-up or further intervention may be required as per protocols,” she says.
Unfortunately, there are no screenings available for men at the moment, but it is important to monitor general health well being and seek for help from a healthcare provider if there is the presence unusual lesions such as warts, unusual growths, lumps or sores on the penis, scrotum, anus, mouth or throat.
“Most individuals are shy when they face these sorts of issues, and there is also a negative stigma attached to it. So, they only present to the hospital or clinic when the symptoms are unbearable or when the warts increase in size and affects more areas. However, one should not be shy about seeking medical advice as this problem is common and I can assure you that all consultations with your doctors are confidential,” Dr Elyana says.
As for patients who have contracted the HPV virus, there are various treatments and keeping a healthy lifestyle is key to ensure general wellbeing.
Sunway Medical Centre Velocity is located at Lingkaran SV, Sunway Velocity. For enquiries, please contact +603 9772 9191 or email [email protected] For more information on Sunway Medical Centre Velocity, visit www.sunmedvelocity.com.my (Facebook: Sunway Medical Velocity).