There are over 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some of these are high risk types that can lead to the development of cancer or precancer. There are treatments available for the health problems that can potentially develop from high risk HPV types.
Which HPV Types Are High Risk?
Each HPV is assigned a number. The types of HPV that are considered to be high risk (cancer-causing) include:
These and other high risk HPV types can potentially cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and oropharynx. The most dangerous high risk HPV types are HPV-16 and HPV-18. These two types of HPV cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancer cases.
Can HPV Be Treated?
Most high risk HPV types don’t cause any health problems. According to the CDC, more than 90% of all new HPV infections become undetectable within two years, with most of those becoming dormant within six months. This statistic includes high-risk HPV types, so even if you do become infected with one of these strains, there’s a good chance your body will suppress it naturally.
There aren’t any proven high risk HPV treatment for the infection itself, but immunity-boosting supplements may help to suppress the virus. Studies are being conducted on a supplement called AHCC, a mushroom extract that is believed to enhance immune cell activity to help fight off infection. There have been some promising findings that link AHCC to the long-term suppression of some HPV infections, including those involving high-risk HPV types.
How to Treat HPV-Related Cancers
If a high risk HPV type persists in the body, it may lead to the development of cancer. In the case of cervical cancer, there are precancerous cervical lesions that often develop long before the cancer becomes invasive. Pap tests can often detect these cell changes, giving doctors the chance to treat them before they become more serious and invasive. The following high risk HPV treatment options may be recommended for cervical precancers:
- Colposcopy: Using a special scope to view the cervix to look for abnormal cells.
- Biopsy: Removing and examining abnormal cells to check for precancers.
- Cold knife conization: Using a scalpel to remove abnormal tissue.
- Cryotherapy: Using a cold probe to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue.
- Laser therapy: Using a laser light to burn and destroy abnormal tissue.
- LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure): Using an electrical current to remove abnormal tissue.
Cervical precancers are much more likely to be detected due to routine, recommended screenings. However, if precancerous lesions for vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, or oropharyngeal areas are detected, similar high risk HPV treatment options may be applied.
When high-risk HPV infections cause cancer, high risk HPV treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Survival rates depend on the stage at which diagnosis occurs.
- Chapter 5: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
- Phase II Evaluation of AHCC for the Eradication of HPV Infections: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018.
- AHCC: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 2019.
- HPV and Cancer: American Cancer Society, 2017.
- Understanding Cervical Changes: Next Steps After an Abnormal Screening Test: National Cancer Institute, 2019.
- HPV and Cancer: National Cancer Institute, 2019.