VAGINAL WARTS: HERALDING CANCER
Vaginal warts or Genital warts refer to small, cauliflower-like skin growth around the ano-genital regions. This highly contagious disease is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is associated with cancer of anus, penis and vulva. Type 6 and Type 11 of HPV virus are believed to be responsible for 90% of the total genital warts cases (1). This disease spreads through direct contact or sexual intercourse with an infected person. Vaginal warts have a long incubation period (takes time to fully develop) and are usually ignored in early stages. If ignored consistently, genital warts can turn in to serious cancers like cervical cancer, anus cancer and vulva cancer.
WHAT IS IT
Vaginal warts affect women in the ano-genital regions. It may affect regions near the vulva, inside the vagina, on the cervix and perineal area. Some vaginal warts are deep inside and thus cannot be seen easily unless other symptoms appear. The size of warts may differ according to the infection and it can even be invisible to naked human eye.
Vaginal warts are classified as a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Thus, the main reason to get infected is oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who already has HPV infection. The HPV can be easily transmitted through skin contact and once it enters mucous membranes of skin, it can then gradually develop in to warts. Years can pass in this process and there are many opportunities of timely detection and treatment. All HPV infections may not lead to cancer but chances of getting cancer increase with presence of vaginal warts.
There are many symptoms of vaginal warts. The most common being growth of cauliflower-like, flesh-colored lesions around the genitals and anus. Other symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, excessive moisture in the warts growth area, and increased rate of vaginal discharge, itching on the anal area, vulva and cervix. These symptoms may take long time to develop and their presence does not always means vaginal warts infection.
No cure has been developed to cure HPV, but visible warts can be treated. Most of the HPV infection may disappear itself because the immune system cleans the virus through Interleukins by recruiting InterFerons. These Interferons slow viral replication and HPV growth is checked naturally. But in some extreme cases, this replication is un-controllable. Colposcope or magnifying glass can be used to see minute genital warts. Pap test can help determine HPV infection. Women are advised to take Pap test every 6 months. However, there is no way to determine whether or not the HPV will definitely cause vaginal warts.
Vaccines are available in the market which can prevent growth of HPV in the body. The two most common vaccines for females are Gardasil (2) and Cervarix. Gardasil is also prescribed to males as they too suffer from certain types of genital warts. These vaccines are given at a young age and should be given prior to a person’s first sexual contact.
The most common treatment to cure genital warts is the Podofilox (3). It is generally chosen due to its low cost. Another treatment used to remove genital warts is known as Loop Electro-surgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). This involves passing out a sharp instrument underneath the wart and then cutting it apart from the skin. In case of serious genital warts growth, Cryotherapy is used. In this method, warts are frozen and then broken apart from the skin. A patient can also opt for a laser treatment. But almost all of these treatments can possibly cause scarring or de-pigmentation on the skin.
early stages and
once these warts
shape in to
ample time for
- Fox PA, Tung MY (2005). "Human papillomavirus: burden of illness and treatment cost considerations". Am J Clin Dermatol 6 (6): 365–81.