Last week I spoke a bit about HPV (human papillomavirus), it’s prevalence among men, and the risks of developing cervical cancer that women face if they contract the disease. I also spoke about the vaccination that is available for the virus, but pointed out that it really needs to be administered before infection occurs. So that may have left readers wondering what courses of action can be taken if a woman already has the HPV virus and what steps can be taken to minimize cancer risks.
For most women (90%), HPV will simply go away within a 2 year time-span. It’s the 10% of women who develop a persistent infection that we’re really concerned about. Pre-cancerous lesions can develop on the cervix, which are what eventually lead to cancer. What is important is that we identify and remove those lesions while they’re still in that pre-cancerous state. This is typically done through laser treatment or cryotherapy (freezing) treatment to remove the cells. These treatments do carry risks such as damaging healthy tissue around the affected area, potentially making it more difficulty to become pregnant.
There are new treatment options in development that try to minimize the damage that can be done with current removal methods. A new treatment called Cevira is moving into a Phase II trial across the United States and Europe. Cevira uses a combination of a light sensitive medical ointment with an LED device. The ointment is applied to the cervix where it is absorbed by the infected and precancerous tissue. The LED device is fitted to the cervix where it stays for 24 hours shining a light of a specific wavelength onto the affected areas. When exposed to this light a chemical reaction occurs within the diseased cells destroying them, while having no effect on the surrounding healthy tissue.
If this proves to be effective in the trial phase it could open up new ways of treating the lesions caused by HPV infection without the potentially damaging side-effects of the current options. This is good news for the many women who are not candidates for the HPV vaccination.
As always, I would like to stress the importance of prevention and proper screening as the best course of action against diseases, whether it be an STD such as HPV or something like cancer. You can read my previous post about HPV to find out more information about the vaccine, who should have it, and why.