Papillomavirus are small cells that are associated with STD (Sexual Transmitted Disease), Cervical Cancer, and other diseases. They are just 55mm in diameter and at least 10% of young women in England are infected with some type of papillomavirus by the age of 16. There are over 100 types of Papillomavirus, ranging from the harmless ones that cause warts, to others that cause cancer.
About 40 types affect the genital area, and 4 are responsible for some common genital diseases. Types 16 and 18 fall under what is known as “high-risk” types and cause abnormal cells, which lead to cancer. These types, along with about 10 others, are easily transmitted from one person to another by sexual relations or genital contact.
Although using a condom is good protection from most sexual diseases, such as AIDS or HIV, they only offer partial protection from papillomavirus cells. 80% of all women will, at one point or another, become infected with at least one type by the age of 50.
The Papillomavirus infects the skin and mucous membranes, lining the cervix. The progression is slow from abnormal benign cells to cancer and sometimes will lie there undetected for many years, before becoming diagnosed.
A third of all women will die within 5 years of diagnosis, but the statistics are changing, as the medical world advances. Recently a vaccine against papillomavirus cells was released, called Gardasil, which so far, has shown highly encouraging results against some types of papillomavirus. Generally, though, once the abnormal cells have developed into cancer, the two options are surgery or radiation, to eliminate them.
In many cases, there are no symptoms to indicate the status and the only true way to discover if you are in infected is to have an annual Pap Smear by a gynaecologist. The “low risk” types are transmitted either environmentally or by touch, but the body builds up antibodies naturally against them.
Women are not the only ones affect by cancer-causing types of papillomavirus. Men could get penile cancer as well. It is a DNA based virus [http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2X_Do_we_know_what_causes_cervical_cancer_8.asp?sitearea=], which is why certain types advance to cancer. Normal cells grow, divide and die, whereas cancer ones just carry on dividing. This happens because the DNA is damaged, and since DNA is hereditary, the defect can be passed on to one’s children. Being a DNA-based virus, the high-risk papillomavirus attacks the DNA in the cells, causing them to become cancerous.
In order for cervical cancer to take form completely, a woman would need a history of infections with the types involved. The risks are generally quite low and for most the chances of getting a high-risk type of papillomavirus is small. However a simple test once a year will eliminate any doubt with your doctor.