Difference Between Cervical Cancer and HPV (With Table)

Throughout the years, several types of cancers and the viruses that cause them have become a major concern in medical studies since there is no assured cure for any cancer. Two common diseases in the cancer medical field are Cervical Cancer and HPV, which are studied interconnectedly due to various reasons.

Cervical Cancer vs HPV

The difference between Cervical Cancer and HPV is that Cervical Cancer is a disease that grows in the cervix of women while HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by Human Papillomavirus, a DNA virus family. HPV can cause several types of cancers including Cervical Cancer, Anal Cancer, Vulvar Cancer, etc.

Cervical Cancer is a malignant disease that develops in the abnormal cells of a woman’s cervix, the lower-most part of the uterus. It is the fourth most common type of cancer among women. If detected in the early stages, Cervical Cancer is also one of the few cancers that can be successfully treated.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection caused by Human Papillomavirus. There are more than 200 kinds of viruses in this DNA family. Only some of these viruses can develop several types of cancers in the body. While the symptoms of HPV are more often unnoticeable, it can cause warts in various body parts.

Comparison Table Between Cervical Cancer and HPV

Parameters of ComparisonCervical CancerHPV
CausesProlonged HPV infection, tobacco smoking, HIV infection.Skin to skin contact, sexual intercourse, weak immune system.
People AffectedWomen ranging from 35 to 44 years of age are most commonly affected.Almost all sexually active people will be affected at some point in their lives.
SymptomsPain during sexual intercourse, increased menopause, abnormal vaginal bleeding, fatigue, nausea, etc. Genital warts, genital itchiness, raised bumps on hands and fingers, etc.
SeverityCan be cured if identified in the early stages but later stages of Cervical Cancer can be life-threatening.Mostly not severe but some HPV viruses can cause genital warts and cancer.
TreatmentHysterectomy, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy.Cryotherapy and Electrocautery for warts, Colposcopy for cervix abnormalities

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer starts growing in the cells lining the cervix. The cervix connects the uterus to the birth canal. Like any other cancer, Cervical cancer also starts developing when the cells inside our body abnormally start growing out of control. It first develops in the transformation zone of a woman’s body. The cells of the body can over time develop abnormalities that are called pre-cancerous changes. The most common factor causing these abnormalities is the prolonged presence of HPV in the body.

Four stages that determine the severity of Cervical Cancer:

  • Stage 1: A very small amount of cancer is developed and has not spread anywhere except the cervix.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread to some portion of the vagina and the uterus.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the whole of the vagina and may even spread to the pelvic wall. It also starts causing major kidney problems.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has excessively spread throughout the other body parts such as lungs, liver, bones, etc., and starts causing organ failure.

There are two types of Cervical cancers named Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common cervical cancer while Adenocarcinoma is a rare disease.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infectious disease throughout the world. There are over 200 types of viruses in the HPV family. Most HPV infections cause little to no symptoms. Even if there are symptoms, they automatically resolve within a few years causing no serious illness. Most sexually active people get infected by it at least once in their lives. Although most HPV viruses cause just a minor infection, a few of these viruses can cause serious diseases including various types of cancers.

Based on their interconnection with cervical cancer, HPV’s are divided into two types:

  • High-risk HPVs: These viruses are the major cause of various cancers such as cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, etc. These include HPV 16 and HPV 18, both of which are the biggest causes of cervical cancer. Only about 20% of HPV viruses are high-risk HPVs.
  • Low-risk HPVs: These rarely lead to the development of any serious illness. These include HPV 6 and HPV 11 which can cause minor warts to various body parts. Most of the HPVs are low-risk.

If an infection is detected, there are vaccines available that can prevent such an infection from becoming a major cause of cancers.

Main Differences Between Cervical Cancer and HPV

  1. Cervical cancer is diagnosed by a gynecologic oncologist using Bimanual Pelvic examination, Biopsy, LEEP procedure, etc., while HPV can be diagnosed by a dermatologist using DNA and pap tests.
  2. Even though cervical cancer has one of the most successful available treatments compared to other cancers, no cure is promising. On the other hand, most HPV infections are self-cured.
  3. Cervical cancer is a chronic and much more severe condition when we take HPV into comparison. The symptoms of cervical cancer are discomforting and extremely painful while HPV’s symptoms are negligible.
  4. The side effects of cervical cancer treatment are physically extreme such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, blood clots, etc. while HPV vaccines have no side effects.
  5. Cervical cancer can often be prevented by regular cervical screening and avoiding smoking while an HPV infection can’t be medically or surgically prevented. Most people get affected by it.

Conclusion

While cervical cancer may often be called ‘A preventable Death’, it still can be as severe as any other cancer. Since the major cause of cervical cancer is an HPV infection, taking HPV vaccines is necessary especially for women.

Gardasil 9 is the most widely used vaccine for HPV infections. This vaccine prevents major infection from various HPV viruses including HPV 16 and HPV 18, both of which are high-risk HPVs that cause most cervical cancers in women. Not only cancer, but it also prevents common HPV symptoms such as genital warts, raised bumps on hands and fingers, etc. It is recommended to get HPV vaccinated at the age of 11 or 12 years.

While most cervical cancers are caused by prolonged HPV infections, there can be other causes of it. Excessive smoking or consuming tobacco in any form will make a woman more prone to cervical cancer and hence, it should immediately be stopped.

Although cancers are yet to find a permanent cure, cervical cancer remains one of the most successfully treated cancer diseases throughout the world. Since the invention of HPV vaccines, the rate of major HPV infections has drastically decreased. Hence, cervical cancers can also be easily prevented.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673603137786
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrc2050
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