Reduce your daughter's risk of cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine.

Jun 21 2013 - 8:07am
HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine remain a controversial subject in America. People who value vaccines are usually not terribly vocal, while those who are opposed to them often shout their opposition from the rooftops (figuratively of course). So just like the proverbial squeaky wheel, it is the anti-vaccine group that garners most of the attention and press. The problem with this is that it creates a bias picture and gives the illusion that the dangers of vaccines are much more serious than they actually are.

The risk associated with different vaccines can be found on the web site of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Before deciding to vaccinate or not, you should get out your calculator and examine both risk of vaccinating and the risk of not vaccinating. In many cases you will find that the risk of not vaccinating is many times higher than the risk of vaccinating.

Suppose someone comes to you and says they have a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer? Would say, “No thanks” and walk away?

In the past, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths, in women, in the U.S. However, over the last 40 years the numbers have declined due the common use of PAP tests that can detect it at very early stages. Nevertheless, in 2009, 12357 women were diagnosed and 3909 died. As you can see, for this particular cancer, the death rate is almost 32%.

A vaccine that can potentially prevent over 12,000 cases of cancer and save almost 4,000 life’s each year, seems like a vaccine worth taking, nonetheless, like many vaccines, it’s a hard sale.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papilloma virus. HPV is a double stranded DNA virus and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and the leading cause (90%) of cervical cancer. There are 14.1 million new cases of HPV in the U.S. each year. There are two types of HPV; the lower risk (30% of cases) non-cancer causing form (usually taking the form of genital warts) and the high risk (70% of cases) cancer causing variety. The CDC states that most sexually active people (males and females) will contract the disease at some point in their lives; and unlike love, HPV is forever.

Who can get HPV?

Both males and females can be infected. For males the infection can be on the skin of the penis or in the oropharynx, while in females, it is usually a genital infection.

Who should get the vaccine and how is it given?

Initially, the recommendation was for females 9-13. However, that has now been expanded to include young males also. The vaccine needs to be given BEFORE the child is sexually active, which is VERY different from the age when you think your child will become sexually active. This vaccine only works when the child is uninfected, it will not cure HPV, only prevent an uninfected child from becoming infected.

Originally the vaccine was given as a 3 shot series over 6 months. However, recent studies suggest that 2 shots are just as effective as 3 shots.

What are the risks of the taking the vaccine?