Vaccination against hpv and cervical cancer

You may have heard that the Unified Health System (SUS) recently started a campaign to vaccinate girls between the ages of 11 and 13 against HPV. Many people wonder whether it is necessary for vaccination to start so early and how effective it is. To answer that, let’s try to understand a little more about HPV and the disease it causes.

HPV and cervical cancer

HPV is the acronym for the human papilloma virus, a virus that infects skin keratinocytes and causes the famous warts. There are several subtypes of the virus, with types HPV-1 and HPV-2 causing warts on the hands, feet and face.

In addition to warts, which are considered benign manifestations, subtypes 6 and 11 of HPV can cause condyloma acuminatum, a type of wart on the anus, penis and vulva. Another manifestation is respiratory papillomatosis, characterized by the appearance of warts in the airways that may require surgical intervention.

Although the conditions described above are uncomfortable and often cause cosmetic problems, they generally do not endanger the patient’s life. However, there is a condition much feared by women that is potentially lethal: cervical cancer.

The HPV virus can be sexually transmitted by men, and subtypes 16, 18, 31 and 45 are the main causes of cancer. It infects the vaginal mucosa and causes cells to slowly transform from healthy cells to malignant cells. It is estimated that more than 95% of cervical cancer cases are associated with HPV infection.

As said, the transformation takes years to happen and during this time lesions in the vaginal mucosa can be detected by routine Pap smears. This exam does not detect the virus itself, but locates the lesions it causes and, therefore, infers whether or not the patient is infected. Other exams are auxiliary in the diagnosis of the infection, such as biopsy of colonic cells, colposcopy and peniscopy (in men). That is why it is important that the Papanicolaou be carried out periodically in women with an active sex life.

prevention and vaccination

One of the ways to prevent the sexual transmission of HPV is to use condoms, both female and male, during sexual intercourse.

Another possibility is vaccination against the virus. The Ministry of Health chose the age group of girls between 11 and 13 years old because at this age the production of antibodies against HPV is more effective. The goal is that by 2016, 80% of girls at this age will be immunized.

It is important to emphasize that vaccination is a preventive and not a curative method of cancer. It is estimated that more than 5000 women died in 2011 victims of cervical cancer, with an estimate, according to the National Cancer Institute (INCA) of 15590 new cases for 2014. Vaccination is therefore essential for the number of deaths is reduced.

Cervical cancer treatment

Once cancer starts, treatment will depend on the stage of disease evolution and damage to neighboring tissues, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The most common treatments are surgery to remove the tumor and affected organs and radiation therapy. In some cases, the surgery can be done laparoscopically, using large forceps inserted through small cuts in the belly.

Chemotherapy can also be employed and uses drugs such as 5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, carboplatin, ifosfamide, paclitaxel and cyclophosphamide to kill the tumor cells. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be used in combination before or after surgery.

It is important that during and after treatment for cervical cancer, women maintain a healthy sex life, using condoms during intercourse. It is critical that your partner be tested for HPV and treated as well. You should have a balanced diet, with the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, greens, grains, avoiding sweets, fried foods and soft drinks. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions and avoid intense efforts during treatment, as well as sexual intercourse.

To learn more about the disease, read our full story:  Cervical Cancer .

Also read:  Ministry of Health incorporates HPV vaccine into SUS

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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