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HPV: challenges of diagnosis and importance of self-care among men


*Freepik

HPV (human papillomavirus) is often associated with cervical cancer, but did you know that men also get infected, transmits and become ill with HPV? The main form of transmission is through unprotected sexual intercourse, but contagion can also occur through direct contact with skin or mucosa infected with the virus.

There are several known HPV subtypes that are divided into two groups according to their cancer-causing potential: low-risk HPVs (types 6, 11, 40, 42, 43, 54, 61, 70, 72, 81), which develop condylomata or genital warts; and high-risk HPVs (types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68, 73, 82), which can cause different types of cancer depending on the site of the infection.

Persistent HPV infection can induce lesions that, if not properly treated, can result in different types of cancer, such as cervical cancer and penis cancer. For both men and women, it can also result in anus cancer and oropharynx cancer. Therefore, after any unprotected sexual intercourse, it is necessary to pay attention to the appearance of signs of HPV infection. In penis cancer, there is a change in color in the affected region or the presence of a nodule, as well as the appearance of a wound or bad-smelling secretion. However, these signs may indicate other diseases, so medical diagnosis is necessary. Anus cancer can result in changes in bowel habits, presence of blood in the faeces, pain in the anal region, itching, burning, unusual secretion, wounds, among others. Finally, oropharyngeal cancer often causes the appearance of a wound that is difficult to heal in the region, a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Therefore, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of self-care, because the earlier the identification of signs, the more effective the treatment for diseases caused by HPV infection can be.

Self-care among men is a topic that has been increasingly discussed, but for a long time this issue was not seen as a necessity. Self-care can be practiced at different times of the male routine: in the practice of physical exercises, in a balanced and nutritious diet, in the observation and care of the own body, in the accomplishment of regular medical exams and also through vaccination. However, there is an obstacle to self-care and early diagnosis of diseases in men: prejudice. Most men do not have a culture of self-care and do not perform preventive exams, a fundamental criterion for a healthy life. This can occur due to a non-preventive behavior, focused on treating the disease that the patient already has, without a focus on prevention, which can be more effective and guarantee a better prognosis. According to the National Cancer Institute (INCA (BR)), the detection of cancer caused by HPV in an advanced stage can reduce the patient's life expectancy to less than 5 years. Thus, it is understood the need not only to raise awareness, but also to promote a change in behavior that guarantees prevention and quality of life also for the male population.

Vaccination is a key part of disease prevention and is, therefore, an investment in public health. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine is available in the SUS for girls aged 9 to 14 years, boys aged 11 to 14 years, and for immunosuppressed boys/men and girls/women aged 9 to 45 years, living with HIV/AIDS, transplant patients and cancer patients. In the private network, the HPV vaccine is available for girls and women between 9 and 45 years old, immunocompetent or immunocompromised; and for boys and men between 9 and 26 years old, under the same health conditions. This vaccine prevents cervical, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and anal cancers related to HPVs 16 and 18 in men and women, in addition to being able to prevent genital warts related to HPVs 6 and 11 in both sexes. Experts recommend vaccination for sexually active men and women without a steady partner. Outside the indicative range, in the private network, it is possible to benefit from the vaccine by presenting a medical indication.

In the month in which Father's Day is celebrated in Brazil, ImunoTera encourages all men to be attentive to their own bodies, to carry out their exams and routine consultations and to be vaccinated; supports the practice of self-care as a necessary act of self-love and health care.

Men, remember that health care should be practiced all year round, not just on commemorative dates like Father's Day. If you have any questions, go to ImunoTera's Instagram (@imunotera) and send your question, we'll answer you soon!


References

  1. SINAIS DA INFECÇÃO POR HPV NOS HOMENS. Disponível em: https://www.pfizer.com.br/noticias/ultimas-noticias/sinais-da-infeccao-por-HPV-nos-homens. Acesso em: 08/08/2022.

  2. Desafios na detecção precoce e no tratamento do câncer de cabeça e pescoço são temas de webinar do INCA. Publicado em: 14/07/2021. Disponível em: https://www.gov.br/inca/pt-br/assuntos/noticias/2021/desafios-na-deteccao-precoce-e-no-tratamento-do-cancer-de-cabeca-e-pescoco-sao-temas-de-webinar-do-inca. Acesso em: 08/08/2022.

  3. GALVÃO, Aline de Oliveira. Importância do diagnóstico precoce e o tratamento do HPV em portadores do sexo masculino. Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Faculdade de Medicina. Núcleo de Educação em Saúde Coletiva. Pompéu, 2012. 22f.

  4. Vacina HPV quadrivalente é ampliada para homens de até 45 anos com imunossupressão. Publicado em: 06/07/2022. Disponível em: https://www.gov.br/saude/pt-br/assuntos/noticias/2022/julho/vacina-hpv-quadrivalente-e-ampliada-para-homens-de-ate-45-anos-com-imunossupressao#:~:text=Quem%20pode%20se%20vacinar%3A,medula%20%C3%B3ssea%20e%20pacientes%20oncol%C3%B3gicos. Acesso em: 08/08/2022.

  5. Imagem Freepik: <a href='https://br.freepik.com/fotos-vetores-gratis/saude-mental'>Saúde mental vetor criado por freepik - br.freepik.com</a>

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