Cervical cancer is the most concern for many women about whether they may face the disease in the future or what they can do to prevent it. Most cervical cancers are related to a virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. Vaccination with the HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of cervical cancer worldwide. Here’s what you need to know about the HPV vaccine.
What are the functions of the HPV vaccine?
Different HPV viruses are spread through sexual contact and are associated with most cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil 9 is an HPV vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and available to both girls and boys. The vaccine can prevent most cervical cancers if given before a girl or woman becomes infected. In addition, the vaccine can prevent vaginal and vavul cancers in women and can prevent genital warts and anal cancer in women and men.
In theory, vaccinating boys against HPV-related strains of cervical cancer could also help protect girls from the virus by reducing transmission. Some types of HPV have also been linked to cancer of the mouth and throat. Thus, the HPV vaccine may provide some protection against these cancers as well.
Who is the HPV vaccine for and when should it be given?
The HPV vaccine is usually given to girls and boys age 11 or 12 years old, although it can be given at 9 years of age. It is best for girls and boys to be vaccinated before they have sex and have not been exposed to HPV. Research has shown that vaccination at a young age is not associated with the onset of sexual activity.
When someone is infected with HPV, the vaccine may not be as effective or may not be effective at all. Also, the response to the vaccine is better in younger people than in older people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that children 11 to 12 years of age receive two doses of HPV vaccine for at least six months, replacing the previously recommended three doses. Adolescents between 9 and 10 years of age and 13 and 14 years of age can also receive the updated double-dose vaccination schedule. Research has shown that two-dose schedule are effective for children under 15 years of age.
Adolescents and young adults who start vaccinating after the age of 15 to 26 should continue to receive three doses. The CDC now recommends HPV vaccination for all 26-year-olds who have not been adequately vaccinated. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved Gardasil 9 vaccine for men and women between the ages of 9 to 45.
Who should not get HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women or those with moderate or severe illness. Talk to your doctor if you have any severe allergies, including yeast or latex. Also, if you have a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of a vaccine or previous dose of the vaccine, you should not get the vaccine.
Does the HPV vaccine work if you have already had sex?
Even if you already have HPV, you can still benefit from the vaccine because it can protect you from other types of viruses that you do not already have. However, no vaccine can cure an existing HPV infection. The vaccine protects you from the HPV virus when you are not already infected.
Does the HPV vaccine pose a health risk or side effect?
Side effects can be normal and minor. The most common side effects of HPV vaccine include: pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site. Sometimes dizziness or fainting occurs after vaccination. Sitting for 15 minutes after the injection can reduce the risk of fainting. In addition, headaches, nausea, fatigue or weakness may also occur.
Do HPV-vaccinated women still need to do Pap testes?
Of course, the HPV vaccine does not replace Pap tests. Regular screening for cervical cancer through regular Pap tests starting at age 21 is still an important part of women’s health care.
What can you do to prevent cervical cancer if you are not in the recommended age group for vaccination?
HPV is spread through oral, vaginal or anal sex. To protect yourself from HPV, use a condom every time you have sex. In addition, do not smoke because smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.
To find cervical cancer at an early stage, see your healthcare provider for regular Pap tests starting at age 21. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer, such as: vaginal bleeding after intercourse, during or after menopause, pelvic pain, or pain during having sex.