Papillomavirus, patients’ stories online to spread the importance of vaccines

“I have an STD Swab Test story to tell.” This is the name of the awareness project launched today by the Italian Federation of Voluntary Oncology Associations (Favo), with the non-conditional support of Sanofi Pasteur Msd, to raise public awareness on the importance of vaccination against the Human Papillomavirus. The stories are those of patients who have experienced the infection first-hand. They collect testimonials on a dedicated website alongside reliable information content from people who have had an HPV DNA test.

The Papillomavirus virus, explained by the initiative’s promoters, is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, especially through sexual actions. It is the second pathogen responsible for cancer in the world. HPV causes lesions, warts, and infertility and can cause various forms of cancer, such as carcinoma of the cervix or cervix, the first cancer recognized by the World Health Organization as totally attributable to an infection. “It is important to know and make it known that our children can prevent the risk of getting certain types of cancer with a simple vaccination, a small gesture that turns into an investment in health,” explains Elisabetta Iannelli, general secretary of Favo.

AVAILABLE JABS

Available HPV Urine test jabs. In Italy, bivalent and quadrivalent vaccines are already available. Effective against 2 and 4 types of HPV, respectively. The nonovalent vaccine (against 9 serotypes of HPV) will be available shortly. Suppose the STD exam exists for the secondary prevention of cervical cancer. Vaccination is the only primary prevention tool capable of preventing precancerous and cancerous lesions due to the Papillomavirus, potentially dangerous to life.

To carry out the exam, they take a sample of cells from the cervix the same way as the Pap smear. They then streak the collected material or place it in appropriate storage liquids for liquid phase cytology or ad hoc tubes. The HPV Type test is not intended as a primary screening exam but can only be used within specific protocols. However, they are testing it in large clinical trials for its possible future use.

INFECTION

The papillomavirus STD infection is widespread; it is estimated that most sexually active people come into contact with the virus, which is usually eradicated by the immune system quickly. An STD Home Test that is positive for an HPV infection, therefore, does not mean being ill. Still, it is a precious sign for undergoing appropriate checks and lowers the chances of falling ill in the future. In a small percentage of cases, the infection remains and can give rise to benign pathologies, such as warts and lesions, that can transform no carcinoma over the years. At least nine out of ten cervical cancers are due to HPV. No other tumour allows such a preventive strategy. Today, there are three types of vaccines available. Their name is based on the number of strains they act against. Bivalent, quadrivalent and nonavalent.

VACCINES AVAILABLE

“Today – explains Liverani. The nonavalent vaccine includes the main viral strains implicated in almost 90% of tumours and warts. HPV 6 and 11 responsible for 90% of warts plus seven other oncogenic strains HPV 16-18-31-33- 45-52-58, responsible for just under 90% of cervical and anal cancers.” In Italy, almost 5,000 cases of cancer every year are attributed to chronic infections of oncogenic strains of the papillomavirus, in particular tumours of the uterine cervix and a variable share of those of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis, oral cavity, pharynx and larynx. “In addition to protection from cancers and warts, vaccination involves saving economic resources (estimates exceed 100 million Euros per year) and a significant anxiety reduction, which almost all patients suffering from related pathologies manifest”.

We must consider that these are diseases that often require repeated STD Lab Tests, treatments, and checks at an estimated price of 528 million euros per year in Italy, in addition to a load of fears and physical and emotional discomfort that is difficult to calculate. In Italy, the vaccination plan provides an active and free vaccination offer to boys and girls, preferably in the twelfth year. Still, immunisation is also offered to unvaccinated boys and girls and is recommended to girls who, at 25, are called for the first HPV DNA test. Some regions contribute with a co-payment scheme to vaccination for other age groups.

ERADICATION POSSIBLE

In Italy, there are approximately 2,400 new cases of cervical cancer per year, especially in young women (AIRTUM/AIOM data). Thanks, above all, to screening programs that allow the diagnosis. Also, treatment of lesions in the initial or pre-cancer phase. They have significantly reduced death from this disease. However, the impact remains important, especially when the Pap STD Home test is less widespread. Getting very close to zero with new cases of cervical cancer is a difficult but possible goal. The experience of Australia shows this: in fifteen years, there will be 4 cases per 100,000 people, a rare disease figure.

Thanks to vaccines and screening. “They believed in it and spent a lot in prevention and early diagnosis”, explains Professor Carlo Antonio Liverani. Contact person for the Center for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of related genital pathology at the Milan Polyclinic. “Vaccination against HPV Strain test is very important because it protects women and men from various diseases. Already 12 years ago, the American Cancer Society declared the aim of prophylactic vaccination. It is to reduce the incidence of all related genital pathologies. Including tumours and precancerous lesions of the cervix, penis, vulva, vagina and anus”.

COMMITMENT TO WOMEN IN POOR COUNTRIES

Around the world, the disease affects roughly 570,000 women in 2018. New exams are significantly lower in more developed nations. Ninety per cent of victims (310,000 each year) live in low to middle-income countries. They are mostly young women amid their social and family roles. “Each is a tragedy, and we can prevent it,” declared the WHO secretary general. A drama that is time to stop. IARC researchers, like many colleagues worldwide, are studying solutions to make screening and vaccination more accessible and cheap.