Vaccination still most important method to prevent HPV-related diseases
Contrary to popular belief, the human papillomavirus (HPV) spares no one.
HPV, in fact affects both men and women at the same rate. According to MSD Philippines, at least 50 percent of men and women will get HPV in their lifetime, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection, specifically genital HPV.
Sadly though, the misconception that the virus targets only women is still very much prevalent in the Philippines, amid the increasing incidence of HPV-related diseases for both sexes.
MSD Philippines explained that genital HPV, in particular, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in both sexes that is highly transmissible because one can contract it through skin-to-skin contact and not just through sexual intercourse.
“Almost 80 percent of HPV conditions do not show any symptoms until they are already in the late, dangerous stages. This is problematic because men have a tendency to ignore health problems, more so genital infections until treatment becomes more difficult, costly and in some cases, impossible,” said Dr. Angela Bandola, an OB-Gyne Infectious Disease specialist from the UP-PGH.
Aside from life-threatening female diseases such as cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer, HPV can also lead to male illnesses such as penile cancer, anal cancer, cancers of the head and neck, and genital warts.
Bandola explained that although there are various ways to prevent HPV infection, vaccination remains the most important method to prevent any HPV-related diseases. Again, contrary to popular belief that only women can avail of the vaccine, this too can be administered to men.
“The HPV vaccine helps prevent not just cervical cancer but other genital cancers and genital warts as well. This, coupled with regular screening and a healthy lifestyle, lowers the risk of getting the diseases,” Bandola further said.
The quadrivalent HPV vaccine, which covers protection for HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, is the only vaccine studied in men to prevent HPV diseases. Aside from vaccination in women to prevent cervical cancer, males can also be vaccinated to protect themselves from HPV diseases, MSD Philippines added.
One male patient, 30 years old, a manager of a BPO company who developed genital warts from a chance sexual encounter, related that he was shocked to learn that he got infected by HPV.
Upon discovering the infection, the patient immediately sought the attention of a urologist, who confirmed that he had genital warts.
“At that time, I felt terrible anxiety about other people finding out about my infection. I was paranoid, insecure and I didn’t know what to do. This is something that you’ll be ashamed to tell even your closest friends. So when the doctor told me that the warts can be treated, you can only imagine the relief I felt,” he related.
To treat the infection, he chose chemical cauterization, a painful and costly process of burning the warts off through a special chemical treatment. While the warts disappeared, the patient knew that genital warts can recur.
To help secure his safety from HPV, the patient opted to get vaccinated with the quadrivalent HPV vaccine which helps prevent four types of HPV and, consequently, the diseases that result from it. At present, it is the only vaccine variant that helps address male HPV problems.
“Being cautious and educating yourself is really the key. The idea that HPV is purely a female concern is a huge and dangerous misconception, and it’s important that men really know the real deal. And not only should they learn about the virus, they should also get vaccinated,” the patient noted.
“Genital warts are bad enough, but there are far worse things you can contract from HPV. A few trips to the doctor for vaccination will make a world of difference, and your life will be better for it. I know mine did,” he concluded.
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