European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is currently being held. Professor Ž. Bumbulienė says this is a good time to remember that cervical cancer remains a huge and uncontrollable threat, killing several hundred women each year in Lithuania.
“Cervical cancer usually affects women young enough at reproductive age, but the risk arises even earlier and lasts a lifetime. Early sexual intercourse, major changes in sexual partners, long-term use of oral contraceptives , smoking and other immunosuppressive factors increase the risk of cervical cancer.However, the main cause of the disease is HPV infection, which affects at least once in a lifetime 75-80% of people of all sexually active people “, explains prof. Ž. Bumbulienė.
Even early detection of cervical cancer has serious consequences
HPV is a widespread virus, usually transmitted through sexual contact. HPV often goes away without causing more serious health problems, but if the human immune system fails, the consequences begin with genital warts and end with a variety of cancers. HPV is an insidious virus that, according to the professor, can persist in the body asymptomatic for up to a decade, and when oncological changes occur, it is often too late.
“Some people realize they have HPV when they develop genital warts. Women may also find that they have HPV when they test for cervical cancer with an abnormal cervical cytological smear (CAB). Unfortunately, many people get diagnosed with cancer earlier than those with HPV, “says Prof. Ž. Bumbulienė adds that the diagnosis of cervical cancer is always painful.
“Even if the cancer is detected at an early stage, the uterus is removed during the operation and this leads to women’s fertility problems. There is no other treatment. In advanced stages of cancer, the entire uterus or more tissues can be removed, depending on the extent of the cancer. If surgery is not possible, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used. Our goal is to save a woman’s life, but we are no longer talking about fertility. “
HPV causes not only cervical cancer but also other organs
The doctor stresses the importance of protecting against HPV infections in both women and men.
“For some reason, there is a widespread belief that HPV is only dangerous for women because it causes cervical cancer. Yes, it is almost 100%. the virus that causes the disease, but HPV also causes genital cancer in women and penile cancer in men. And for both: genital warts, anal, oral and pharyngeal cancers. The latter is more common among men “, says prof. Ž. Bumbulienė.
It is important to mention that these oncological diseases are not only caused by HPV, but are responsible for more than 90% of cases. cases of female genital cancer, 80%. – anal cancer, up to 70 percent. – oral and pharyngeal cancer and approximately 40% cases of penile cancer.
The doctor stresses that to avoid the consequences of this common virus, it is necessary to use condoms that protect at least partially against HPV, make regular health checks and participate in a preventive health program that helps detect precancerous changes in the cervix. However, the most effective means of protection in all cases is vaccination.
“This is especially true for men, because there are no health screening programs for them for GPP and the virus does not cause any characteristic symptoms to identify the threat. When pathologies and oncological changes develop, doctors usually diagnose the disease too late, ”says prof. Ž. Bumbulienė.
Vaccines are the most effective prevention and the best investment in health
In Lithuania, according to the vaccination schedule, 11-year-old girls are vaccinated against state-funded HPV. Prof. Ž. Bumbulienė says this prevention program is very important and doctors have been waiting for it for almost a decade, but there is still room for improvement.
“In Lithuania, according to the state program, only girls are vaccinated. For vaccination to be effective, 80% must be vaccinated. eleven-year-old girls, even better: 90%. And today in Lithuania we only reach 65%. – They are certainly not enough volumes. In order to protect the boys as well, we should also vaccinate them or expand the range of girls to be vaccinated according to age up to 13 years and over ”, the doctor is convinced.
So far, there are 3 types of HPV vaccines: divalent, tetravalent, and nivalent. They all protect against the two most aggressive types of HPV, which cause 70%. cases of cervical cancer. However, according to the professor, there are about 150 types of GPP, of which about 40 are found in the mucous membranes of the genitals. Therefore, the tetravalent vaccine provides additional protection against the HPV types that cause genital warts, while the nivalent vaccine helps the human immune system to develop an additional response against five high-risk HPV types.
“Unfortunately, when announcing a tender for the purchase of an HPV vaccine, the price is taken into account: in this case, a bivalent vaccine is cheaper, so it is vaccinated in Lithuania. But if a woman decides to vaccinate at his own expense or if the family wants to protect their children, both girls and boys, there should be an unequivocal vaccine with a brave nine-foot vaccine.Until now, this can only be done privately, but not there is a better investment than in the health of oneself or one’s children ”, advises Prof. Ž. Bumbulienė.
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