Human Papilloma Virus. HPV. Not Your Friend.
All diseases have causes. Some we can see. Some are invisible. The invisible diseases may be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses. The human papilloma virus, or HPV is a virus. And, it can cause disease.
HPV has been linked to the development of cervical cancer in women. Hence the need to see a gynecologist for a regular exam and Pap smear. In the case of anal cancer, the disease is strongly tied to anal HPV. And, this is where your proctologist, also known as a colon and rectal surgeon is involved. Beyond educating you about this nefarious virus, your proctologist can evaluate you, examine you and perform anal Pap smears to try to find the earliest signs of an inflammation.
First, Some Education.
HPV is really just a descriptive name for a group of viruses with many subtypes, or genotypes. There are at least 200 subtypes of the human papilloma virus. Many of the genotypes have been linked to the development of different diseases. As an example, anal warts, or condyloma acuminata is strongly tied to an infection with genotypes 6 and 11. Before you become too upset, understand that HPV is ubiquitous. It is everywhere and lives side-by-side with its host. Us. Most of the time, this relationship is unremarkable. However, for reasons unknown, the virus may cause disease.
In the case of anal cancer, it is thought that genotypes 16, 18, 31, 33, and 35 are the “bad actors” causing anal cancer. Although these viruses cannot be found in all cases of anal cancer, they are found quite often. The trick is to find them early, before they can cause a problem. They seem to be diagnosed frequently in those who are immunosuppressed or in those who practice anal receptive intercourse.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anal Cancer?
- Anal pain.
- An anal lump or mass.
- Anal bleeding.
- The new onset of anal itching.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Altered or painful bowel movements.
What To Do If You Are Worried (Or Even If You Are Not Worried.)
There are steps that you can take to screen for disease, if you are not in a high risk group. This screening should be thought of as being no different than your regular trip to your doctor. Plant it in your mind and leave it there as reminder for your yearly visit.
A regular visit to your proctologist will allow for a digital exam, whereby the doctor places a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for abnormalities, masses or blood (microscopic blood). This is often followed by a proctosigmoidoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy or anoscopy; all quick exams that allow your doctor to view various parts of your colon, rectum or anus. Your physician may recommend a colon evaluation by a colonoscopy, barium enema or CT colonoscopy.
Most likely, all will be fine and will remain that way. If you are in high risk group, your doctor may place a small soft brush inside your anal opening to perform a Pap smear, looking for early signs of inflammation.
And that is it. A final discussion, summarizing the findings, and you will be out the door and off to another happy year. But, it is important to keep in mind 16, 18, 31, 33, 35. You may be living with them and you need to be vigilant.
Los AngelesColon and Rectal Surgical Associates.
The surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are board certified and trained to examine you and care for HPV and all problems related to the colon, rectum and anus. Take the first step toward a confidential consultation by calling (310)273-2310. The first step should be…the easiest.