HPV: One Appointment Could Prevent 7 Cancers
Courtney Noonan, M.D., PGY IV Obstetrics and Gynecology
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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes all cervical cancer, but did you know it can also cause other gynecologic cancers such as vulvar, vaginal, oral/throat, rectal, penile and anal cancer as well? Almost all men and women will be exposed to HPV at some point. The HPV vaccine targets the strains of HPV most likely to cause cancer. Administering the vaccine prior to exposure dramatically reduces the risk of developing all of these cancers as an adult.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women. Almost every one of these cases is caused by HPV. Every year in the US, more than 4,000 people die from cervical cancer - the same cancer that can be prevented by this vaccine. Pre-cancer cells found on a pap smear are also caused by HPV. Many women have to undergo biopsies and procedures for pre-cancer that can compromise their future ability to carry a pregnancy. For men, 88% of anal cancer and 50% of penile cancer is caused by HPV.
The HPV vaccine is most effective when given at age 11-12 for BOTH boys and girls but can be given up to age 26. At age 11-12, the immune system is two to three times more likely to protect the body from HPV. Adolescents younger than 15 need two doses of the vaccine, 6-12 months apart while people ages 15-26 need three doses.
The vaccine is safe. It was tested in almost 75,000 volunteers before being approved for use. The CDC, WHO, American Cancer Society, and professional societies of gynecologists, pediatricians, and family practitioners all strongly recommend the HPV vaccine.
Call your pediatrician today to speak with someone about protecting your son or daughter. It’s easy!