Women health

According to the world health Organization, about 80% of all sexually active men and women will contract at least one strain of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted virus, at some point during their lives. According to experts, the virus is the root cause of many cancers in both men and women, including all cervical cancers, which kill one woman every hour in the country. HPV is estimated to infect 630 million people worldwide, compared to 40 million people infected with HIV.

Because this virus, which has no known cure, does not spread through bodily fluid alone, it cannot be completely avoided by using a condom. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations, and can infect anyone who is or has ever been, sexually active. HPV infection, which is highly contagious, can affect both men's and women's skin, cervix, anus, mouth, and throat, according to experts.

"HPV is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers. HPV is linked to eight out of ten cases of anus cancer, half of the vulval cancers (cancers of the outer private part of women), seven out of ten vaginal cancers, and one out of every three cases of penis cancer. "The mouth, throat, scrotum, conjunctiva (eye covering), skin, nose, nail beds, and tonsils are among the other places that can be affected," she added. HPV, according to Nzelu, usually has no symptoms, goes away on its own after a few years, and does not cause health problems.

This is because the immune system naturally fights it. "HPV can only cause cancer if it remains in the cells for a long time." It can be passed from mother to child during childbirth and cause Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP), an asthma-like condition that can result in the death of an innocent child," she explained.

Despite the fact that there are over 150 different types of HPV, Nzelu claims that the four that cause the majority of diseases are Types 6, 11, 16, and 18.

It is also the world's most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), with the highest prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to experts.

Those who believe they are immune to the virus because they are not promiscuous should know that all it takes to contract the virus is skin-to-skin contact, according to Nzelu. “ Although HPV can be spread during sex, including vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and oral sex, the infection can also be spread without sex. To pass HPV from one person to another, all that is required is skin-to-skin contact with an infected area of the body. As a result, not

 having sex does not guarantee that you will not become infected.

"Recently, a woman complained of post-coital bleeding at the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP)" (bleeding after sexual intercourse). Cervical cancer was discovered after an investigation. She was completely taken aback by the news, as she had only ever had one sexual partner – her husband. This story demonstrates that having only one partner does not eliminate the possibility of being infected with HPV.

It's important to note, however, that women who are sexually exposed at a young age and who have multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop the disease," she said.

Other risk factors, according to her, include smoking, a weakened immune system, and poor genital hygiene, with women in developing countries like Nigeria being particularly vulnerable, as Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest HPV prevalence, with 26% of Nigerian women testing positive for the virus.

As a result, Nzelu advocates for annual cervical cancer screening, which she claims will help with early detection. "A woman's first cervical screening in Nigeria should be done when she turns 18 or three years after she first has sex, whichever comes first." This is due to the fact that we have seen teenagers in the country with cervical cancer. “In the early stages of cervical cancer, there are no symptoms,” she explained.

The good news is that vaccines are now available to help prevent certain types of HPV and the cancers associated with them. Both males and females can benefit from these vaccines.

“There are three types of HPV vaccines: Cervarix (bivalent), Gardasil (quadrivalent), and Cervarix (nine-valent)” (Gardasil 9). Only two types of HPV (16 and 18) are protected by the bivalent vaccine, which is only recommended for females for cervical cancer prevention.

The quadrivalent vaccine guards against four different strains of HPV (6, 11, 16, and 18). Gardasil 9 is a quadrivalent vaccine that protects against four types of HPV as well as five other high-risk types: 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. As a result, Gardasils prevent most cases of cervical cancer as well as other cancers caused by HPV infection, such as genital, anal, oral, and throat cancers.

Genital warts and Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis are also prevented by Gardasils (RRP). Both males and females are permitted to use the Gardasil.

Vaccinating boys against HPV could help protect girls by reducing the virus's transmission. Vaccines are typically given in three doses over the course of six months. "According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, i.e. Cervarix and Gardasil should not be used interchangeably," she explained.

The vaccine should be given before a person is exposed to HPV, which is usually through sexual activity, according to her, and it is recommended for widespread use by girls between the ages of nine and 26. According to her, the quadrivalent vaccine is also approved for males aged nine to 26 years and is administered in three doses over the course of six months.

Dr. Omolola Salako, a consultant clinical and radiation oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said that getting screened and vaccinated is the cheapest and easiest way for women to avoid cervical cancer.

"Getting a pap smear test once every five years costs N7,000, and getting vaccinated for life costs N21,000." "However, if the infection has progressed to the point where it has become full-blown cancer, there is no guarantee that N500, 000 will cure it," she advised.

Dr. Nelson Egwu, a gynecologist at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, explained that the HPV strains that cause warts are not the same as the HPV strains that cause cancer.

"The low-risk HPV 6 and 11 strains are known to cause genital warts, while the high-risk HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 strains are linked to cancer."

HPV can infect anyone who is or has ever been sexually active, and some of the most infected people are asymptomatic, meaning they show no signs or symptoms of the virus. They can also go dormant and infect a new or existing sexual partner later.

Genital warts may appear as small bumps, clusters of bumps, or stem-like protrusions when they first appear. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including large, small, flat, or cauliflower-shaped, and white or flesh-toned.

The vulva is the most commonly affected area in women. They can, however, be found near the anus, on the cervix, or within the vaginal canal. Men may develop warts on the penis, scrotum, or around the anus. The groin is another area where genital warts can be found in both men and women."

Some misconceptions about HPV:

Only recently have some false reports about HPV been circulated on social media. According to the reports, the virus is a "strange and new ailment" that has killed 13 people in LUTH.

While debunking the rumor, Chris Bode, Lagos, Chief Medical Director of the hospital, explained that HPV does not cause sudden mass deaths in humans.

"According to medical literature, the human papillomavirus causes a variety of diseases in humans, the most common of which is the common wart. Although warts have been documented since ancient Greece, the viral nature of the disease was only described over a century ago,” he said.




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