The HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a very common virus that belongs to a group of viruses consisting of more than a hundred viral strains. HPV infection is quite common, to the extent that most women contract it at least once in their lives, and it typically manifests through benign lesions of the mucous membranes.
What is HPV infection?
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can infect the mucous membranes of the mouth, esophagus, genitals, and anal area.
It is often asymptomatic, while in other cases, it can cause benign lesions such as warts or papillomas that affect urogenital and oral mucosa.
A small percentage, if left untreated, can slowly progress to a tumor form in the oropharynx (tonsils, base of the tongue, and soft palate), anus, vulva, cervix, and penis.
The Paideia HPV Centre offers a comprehensive pathway: from prevention to diagnosis, from treatment to intervention, addressing all health requests for women and men.
It is crucial, in fact, that the center is multidisciplinary and that various specialists interact with each other, especially:
There is indeed scientific evidence correlating HPV infection with neoplasms of the urinary system.
In particular, this correlation has been documented for:
It is estimated that over 40% of women over the age of 40 suffer from chronic and/or recurrent cystopathies, and while prostate cancer is the most common neoplasm in male patients, bladder cancer ranks among the top 10 cancers in the adult male/female population.
Specialists at the Paideia HPV Centre will investigate and research HPV in the following biological fluids and tissues:
HPV in Men
Many still believe that HPV infection is almost exclusively a female issue, especially due to its established correlation with cervical cancer.
However, men are by no means exempt from the risk of contracting the infection caused by HPV, and the consequences for their health can be equally significant. Once contracted, the human papillomavirus in men does not always cause symptoms: in the majority of cases, the infection resolves spontaneously with the intervention of the immune system. On other occasions, HPV becomes apparent with benign lesions of the mucous membranes, called condylomas or anogenital warts (fleshy growths of varying hardness and color, ranging from pink to brown). Additionally, in the male population, HPV can predispose to the development of certain cancers of the penis, anus, and oropharynx. Despite this, awareness of the potential risks of HPV infection, especially in men, is still low, and too often there is a tendency to underestimate, mistakenly, the virus’s ability to cause tumors in men.
It has been estimated that at least 70% of the male population contracts HPV at least once in their lifetime, although in the majority of cases, the infection is transient.
How is HPV transmitted?
The presence of the Papillomavirus is determined by undergoing the HPV test, which is performed by a specialist.
Once the presence of the virus in an individual is identified, it is essential to expand the investigation within the couple by examining the oral, anal, and urinary mucous membranes.
Generally, the time between infection and the onset of precancerous lesions is about 5 years, while the latency for the development of cervical carcinoma can be decades.
Genital infection with the human Papillomavirus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, but it is also frequently possible that transmission occurs environmentally, especially if there are active viral cells and if there are lacerations, cuts, or abrasions on the skin and/or mucous membranes.
If one of the partners contracts the infection, any form of unprotected intimate contact, including manual stimulation of the genitals and the exchange of erotic toys, can be considered a risky practice, especially in the presence of certain cofactors, such as a tendency to have numerous unprotected, occasional, and frequent relationships with multiple sexual partners. It should be noted that many individuals are contagious even without knowing it, as carriers of the human Papillomavirus or affected by an asymptomatic form of the infection. This kind of “unawareness” facilitates the contagion and spread of the viral agent. HPV easily spreads through contact with mucous membranes. This means that it is possible to contract the virus even without complete sexual intercourse. All types of contact are therefore at risk. The same person can also be infected with more than one type of HPV.
In some cases, the infection can be transmitted from one person to another even long after one of the two individuals has contracted it. Having the infection may therefore have nothing to do with the current partner.
People with a particularly vulnerable immune system are more exposed to the risk of contagion. Much less frequently, infection can be caused in certain places where there is promiscuity (such as public showers, pools, barracks, hot tubs) by contact with surfaces previously used by carriers of the infection.
Prevention of HPV
In Italy, approximately 3,500 new cases of cervical carcinoma are diagnosed each year, and over 1,500 women die from this cancer. Therefore, it is important to implement preventive measures based on screening programs to identify precancerous lesions and intervene before they progress to carcinoma.
For several years, there has been a vaccine on the market that protects the cervix from the most dangerous strains of HPV. However, it is crucial to remember that this vaccine complements rather than replaces preventive screenings because it does not guarantee coverage for all types of HPV.
Since the infection is often asymptomatic, it is common not to realize having contracted it, and the doctor may not be able to date the moment of infection.
Therefore, secondary prevention is fundamental, represented by annual gynecological check-ups following the guidelines, including Pap tests and HPV tests, even for women vaccinated against the virus.
For men, on the other hand, there is no need for specific exams, as there is no standardized and routine screening method. Nevertheless, the vaccine is still recommended as a primary prevention method for the disease.
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