HPV - Genital Warts and Cancers

Not enough people know about the plight of human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and just how many of today’s cancer cases it is estimated to be causing. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause genital warts and also cancer. A lump or a bump might not be a wart or another form of STI, it might well be more serious. We need to spread the word about the dangers of untreated or long term HPV infection and the associated risk of cancer. HPV cancers, if caught on time, are thought to be some of the easiest cancers to treat.


HPV infection is not something that is necessarily caught after a one night stand; people can have this infection for years and never know about it because the symptoms have never manifested themselves physically. If the HPV virus lingers and causes cancer, symptoms can include growths or ulcers on the skin of the penis, thickening, odors and discharges, blood, lesions, rashes or any unusual blemishes on the penis. There are many other causes for such symptoms but none of them should be ignored.


According to the latest research, it is thought that roughly half of all penile cancers are caused by HPV infection. Other risk factors for this form of cancer include, age (over 60s), a condition called phimosis, many sexual partners, smoking and bad hygiene practices. Over 500 men will be diagnosed annually in the UK with penile cancer and being aware of HPV and other risk factors is half the battle in terms of getting treated early and surviving.


80% of people in the UK will be infected with the virus at some point. Often the virus simply goes away but in cases it hangs around and is hard to fight off. This is when the virus causes cancer. There are many strains of the virus but virus strains 16 and 18 are directly associated with cancer. Multiple partners and unprotected sex increase the risk of contracting HPV. Where one has been diagnosed with the virus it is recommended that they keep their immune systems boosted by stopping smoking, decrease alcohol consumption and stay fit. This will help the body to fight the virus and maybe even get rid of it completely.


People whose HPV symptoms manifest themselves in the form of genital warts, will have a different strain of the virus to those who risk developing cancer. It is unusual that someone would have both strains but not impossible. Where there are genital warts, there is also an increased risk of passing on the HPV infection, (the genital warts strain) to a sexual partner. Living a healthier lifestyle will also help to fight the strain of HPV which causes these warts.


Genital warts can be treated very easily with creams and solutions or they can be removed surgically. Creams and solutions are generally used by the patient at home, following a visit to the GUM clinic. Sometimes the warts are frozen in the clinic using liquid nitrogen. You can find out more about the way genital warts are treated at www.privatedoctordirect.com


It is not just penile cancer we need to worry about. The same strains of the HPV virus cause vulvar and cervical cancer in women.  There are also concerns surrounding anal and oropharyngeal cancers related to HPV infection. At least among women, regular smear tests are more common. Smear tests involve the scraping of cells from the cervix in order to detect the presence of cancer cells. For men, it’s not that simple, but considering what we now know about HPV, men should be visiting their doctors as regularly for similar check ups. When anything unusual is noticed, it should be brought to the attention of a GP.