About the human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus infection (HPIV) is considered the most common sexually transmitted infection, and is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is so common that it is considered to be present in up to 98% of the sexually active population, throughout their lives.

Fortunately, most cases of HPVI disappear on their own, thanks to our defenses, so that in many cases we will never know that we had the infection. When the infection does not disappear, it can be associated with genital warts or lesions that are considered premalignant or precancerous. Genital warts can be noticed with the naked eye as solitary or multiple small “bumps”, they can be flat or raised, they even have shapes like “cauliflower”, and they can be located on the cervix, in the vagina, on the vulva, or on the multiple sites.


There are several ways of diagnosing it, of course, once sexual life begins, tests as simple as cervicovaginal cytology or Papanicolaou can be performed, exams such as colposcopy, these two can be performed simultaneously and complement each other very well, so that we can have a good percentage of certainty in the diagnosis of HPVI. When a suspicion of HPV infection or lesion is identified in the colposcopy, it is necessary to take a biopsy of the tissue and analyze it by the pathologist to confirm or rule it out, special analyzes are performed on that sample. Currently, some tests have been added so specific that they are called “molecular”, these tests are carried out on a sample similar to that of the Papanicolaou, these are the Capture of Hybrids and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR for its acronym in English), These can be useful in special cases, for example, in those in which the HPV infection is persistent, that is, when it has been detected in two tests or more in the course of two years.

Currently there is no specific treatment against the virus worldwide, however, there are very effective treatments against the lesions that the virus can cause (genital warts and intraepithelial lesions, formerly known as dysplasias), these treatments include directly applied medications in the form of creams or ointments, and other treatments that are called surgical such as resection, cryotherapy, electrofulguration, and laser vaporization.

Of course, there is a way to prevent infection by the most frequent types of HPV, there are two vaccines available (against types 6, 11, 16 and 18), and they are more effective if they are administered before starting sexual life . In addition, there is a third vaccine that includes protection against 9 viral types, however, we are awaiting its introduction to Mexico. Other ways to prevent HPVI have to do with not starting a sexual life before the age of 18, not having multiple sexual partners, avoiding smoking, moderating the consumption of alcoholic beverages, treating infections from other causes on time, and especially everything, to carry out controls with Papanicolaou and colposcopy periodically.

“Regarding its association with cancer, in recent years it has been commented that it causes cancer, which is why it immediately generates concern and alarm, however, it is considered a very important risk factor for the generation of a cancer, but it is not a direct cause.”

Dr. Carlos A. Cortés
Dr. Carlos A. Cortés
Surgeon Oncologist
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