The human papillomavirus, known as HPV, can wreak havoc on your body. It can cause cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia or genital warts. Those exposed to high risk HPV face an increased chance of cancer or cervical dysplasia. However, the onset of cancer for such patients is not guaranteed. Your OBGYN will prove essential to your health. Visit your OBGYN for STD testing and the administering of the HPV vaccine. Our healthcare practitioners will educate you about all aspects of vaccination and testing. Those who have children should also discuss HPV vaccines for their offspring while at the OBGYN.
What You Need to Know about HPV
About 14 million new HPV cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. All in all, more than 100 different types of HPV exist. Many of these types lead to the formation of genital warts or plantar warts. Certain HPV strains spur cervical cancer and cancer that impacts the genitals, mouth or upper respiratory tract. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the country. However, the majority of HPV infections do not cause symptoms and eventually clear up without treatment. Yet there is still a considerable risk to this virus. Consider the fact that every year, 10,000 women are diagnosed with cancer of the cervix. Upwards of 4,000 of these women will eventually die from this cancer. The HPV vaccine is quite helpful to protect against the virus’s potentially deadly consequences.
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, which often occurs during sexual intercourse. Those who are sexually active increase the risk for the virus.
Many of those who have HPV are asymptomatic. This means they show no symptoms of the virus. In many instances, HPV infections end up resolving themselves. Yet there is the potential for the virus to remain dormant and eventually infect another person. HPV can also spread through the birthing process. In such an instance, it results in a respiratory system infection or a genital infection. Though some HPV strains cause warts, they are not the same as the group of strains that cause the onset of cancer.
The HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine is an inactive vaccine that guards against infections caused by the four primary types of the virus. It provides protection against the two HPV strains tied to cervical cancer along with the two tied to genital warts. This vaccine protects against 80 percent of cervical cancers. However, an individual who receives the HPV vaccine should not avoid screenings for cervical cancer. Such screenings should still occur on a regular basis without exception.
There are two unique FDA-approved HPV vaccines available at this point in time, known as Cervarix and Gardasil. Each of these vaccines guards against HPV-16 as well as HPV-18, HPV-11 and HPV-6. These types of vaccines are commonly associated with cervical cancer, warts and precancerous lesions on the vulva, vagina and cervix. Both types of HPV have the potential to cause cervical cancer. These vaccines also protect against certain genital warts to boot. Gardasil is especially helpful in combating the two HPV types that lead to such warts. Gardasil also reduces the chances of contracting HPV strains that lead to cervical cancer. We typically provide Gardasil in two doses between 6 and 12 months apart.
Who Should Receive the HPV Vaccine and When Should It be Administered?
We typically provide the HPV vaccine at three different points in time. The first dose should occur as soon possible. A subsequent dose is provided two months after the initial dose. We provide the third dose six months after the initial dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises HPV vaccinations like Gardasil for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12. However, children as young as 9 years-old can receive Gardasil injections. Always discuss the matter in-depth with the healthcare professionals at your local OBGYN prior to making a decision. It is important to note women who do not receive a full set of injections by 12 years of age can still enjoy the protection provided by “catch-up” vaccinations up to age 26. Catch-up vaccination is available for men up to age 21.
Do not worry about potential Gardasil side effects. Potential side effects like minor headaches, nausea, and slight soreness are mild. Though Gardasil is certainly worth consideration, it is not guaranteed to prevent every single type of cervical cancer. Continue visiting with the healthcare professionals at your local OBGYN for routine exams that detect the early signs of the disease as well as additional problems.
If you would like to learn more about hpv vaccine and the various treatments we provide, call (559) 424-1180 to schedule a consultation.