It is by far the most frequent sexually transmitted infection: it is estimated that 4 out of 5 people are affected by human papillomavirs (Hpv) in the course of life – women more than men – and the absence of symptoms favors its spread. Not only that: 95% of cervical cancer cases, according to the WHO, are caused by a genital infection by Hpv. “In 70-90% of cases the infection resolves spontaneously within 12-24 months, in 10-30% of cases it remains persistent, up to causing lesions. Only 3-5% of these lesions, if not highlighted and treated, can develop into cervical cancer. Prevention is fundamental, through the vaccination of girls starting as early as 12 years of age. Thanks to vaccination, Pap smears and colposcopy, we hope that cervical cancer will soon no longer exist in a civilized nation. ” Antonio Chiantera, president of the Italian Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Sigo).
The specialist emphasizes the importance of prevention against papillomavirus infection, the most important risk factor for the onset of cervical cancer, the second most frequent female cancer after that of the breast. Generally, the time between HPV infection and the onset of precancerous lesions is about 5 years.
“To date – explains Chiantera – Over 100 types of HPV viruses are known, but, as for all viral infections, we do not have a specific therapy, but only vaccine formulations that protect against some of these viruses and which, therefore, only allow for primary prevention against infection. This is the case of the nonavalent vaccine that protects against 9 types of Hpv: 6, 11, 16, 18, 31,33, 45, 52 and 58, capable of inducing cancer. This vaccine could prevent approximately 90% of HPV-dependent cancers. In addition to the vaccine, we have treatments such as radio-vaporization and laser-vaporization available. In the more severe forms, however, the tissue is removed. In fact, the virus does not enter the vascular area, but remains localized in the mucosa and skin “.
In Italy, about 3,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year and over 1,500 women die from cancer (Ministry of Health data). “For this reason – insists Chiantera – it is important to implement preventive measures, based on screening programs, which make it possible to identify precancerous lesions and to intervene before they evolve into carcinoma. The secondary prevention weapon to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer is represented only by the timely diagnosis that can be carried out through screening tests and second level diagnostic investigations, such as colposcopy “.
According to the president of Sigo, “the typing of HPV, a technique performed with Pap smears on a liquid layer, is also of great help, because it allows to detect the viral infection in the cervical level or, on the contrary, to ascertain its absence. , the main indication remains that of vaccinating girls from 12 years of age onwards. And since it is a sexually transmitted disease, we have protection in sexual relations as the only means of prevention. ”
On the case of the Bari gynecologist unmasked by a TV program, who claimed to cure papillomavirus by making love with patients, Chiantera cuts short: “There is no sexual activity that can heal a disease. As a scientific society we are waiting for them to judicial authorities, the Order of Doctors and our arbitrators, decide on the matter “.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a strong setback in immunizations against HPv. About half of prophylactic ‘target’ adolescents did not receive vaccination in 2020 and are at risk of contracting Hpv cancer.
Not only, “According to our estimates, due to the health emergency, 1.5 million Pap tests have not been performed“, remarks Chiantera. And the setback of the screening programs will be at the center of the National Congress of the Sigo, ‘Gynecology and women: Beyond the pandemic’, scheduled in Sorrento from 12 to 15 December.
“We will finally see each other in attendance – highlights the president of the scientific society – But the congress will be preceded by the second National Day of Italian Gynecology, which will be held on December 9, during which we will address the issue of non-screening. It is no coincidence that the meeting it will above all be an opportunity to encourage women to make up for lost time, to undergo routine visits and checks by their gynecologist “.
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