Prevention of Cervical Cancer (HPV Vaccine)

What is HPV ?

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. HPV infection is most common in late teens and early 20s.

There are many strains (types) of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers – like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva (area around the opening of the vagina) and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women. These genital warts are not life-threatening. However, they can cause emotional stress and the treatment can be very uncomfortable.

HPV1

Pic courtesy:  http://www.virology.wisc.edu/virusworld/viruslist.php?virus=hpv

Why are HPV vaccines important ?

The vaccines target the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer. One of the two currently available vaccines also protects against genital warts caused by HPV. Both vaccines are highly effective in preventing specific HPV types.

What is the vaccination schedule ?

The schedule is three doses of intramuscular injections, administered over a period of six months.

Who needs to get vaccinated ?

HPV vaccination is recommended for girls and women (9 to 45 years of age).

Can pregnant women take the vaccine ?

The vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women. Although studies show that HPV vaccines do not cause problems for babies born to women who received HPV vaccination when pregnant, more research is still needed. If the patient becomes pregnant in the middle of the vaccine series, then the doses should be completed after delivery. Vaccination can be given during breastfeeding.

Should girls and women be screened for cervical cancer before getting vaccinated?

Girls and women do not need to get an HPV test or Pap test to find out if they should get the vaccine. However it is important that women continue to be screened for cervical cancer, even after getting all three shots of the HPV vaccine.

How effective is the vaccination ?

It is a prophylactic vaccine. As with any vaccine, a protective immune response may not be elicited in all cases. The vaccines are less effective in preventing HPV-related disease in young women who have already been exposed to one or more HPV types. That is because the vaccines can prevent HPV only before a person is exposed to it. HPV vaccines do not treat existing HPV infections or HPV-associated diseases.

How long does the vaccine protection last ?

Research suggests that the vaccine protection is long-lasting. Current studies (with up to about seven years of follow-up data) indicate that the vaccines are effective long term, with no evidence of decreasing immunity.

Do the vaccines protect against all HPV types ?

The vaccines do not protect against all HPV types. They are ineffective in about 30% of cervical cancers. It is important, therefore, for women to continue regular screening (Pap tests) for cervical cancer.

How safe is the vaccine ?

Both vaccines have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and approved by Centre for Disease Control (CDC) as safe and effective. Common mild adverse events reported during these studies include pain at the injection site, fever, dizziness and nausea.

In what other ways can women prevent cervical cancer ?

Regular cervical cancer screening and follow-up can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also detect most, but not all, cervical cancers at an early treatable stage. There are HPV tests, which may be used with the Pap test in certain cases, to help determine the next step in cervical cancer screening. Use of condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners may lower the chances of getting HPV.

Regular cervical cancer screening and follow-up can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also detect most, but not all, cervical cancers at an early treatable stage. There are HPV tests, which may be used with the Pap test in certain cases, to help determine the next step in cervical cancer screening. Use of condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners may lower the chances of getting HPV.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s