Curious About The HPV Vaccine?

August 19, 2022

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection and it is associated with most cervical cancer cases.  Did you know widespread immunization with the HPV vaccine could possibly reduce the impact of cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV globally?  

How does the HPV vaccine work?

There are various strains of HPV spread through sexual contact and they are often associated with cases of cervical cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9.  It can be used for both females and males.

The good news is that the vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if the vaccine is given before girls or women are exposed to the virus. This vaccine is also capable of preventing vaginal and vulvar cancer. Genital warts, anal cancers, and mouth, throat, head, and neck cancers in women and men can be prevented by this vaccine as well.

Vaccinating boys against the types of HPV associated with cervical cancer may also help to protect girls from the virus by possibly decreasing transmission.

Who should get the HPV vaccine and when should it be given?

It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the HPV vaccine be given to girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12. However, It can be given as early as age 9. Ideally, females and males should receive the vaccine before they start having sexual contact with others and are exposed to HPV

If someone is infected with HPV, the vaccine may not be as effective. Responsiveness to the vaccine is generally better with those younger in age rather than older in age.

The recommendation by the CDC is that all 11- and 12-year-olds should receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Research has shown that the two-dose schedule is effective for children under 15.  However, those between the ages of 15 to 26 should receive three doses of the vaccine.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Gardasil 9 for males and females ages 9 to 45. If you’re between the ages of 27 to 45 – discuss with your healthcare provider whether they recommend that you get the HPV vaccine.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Women who are pregnant or others that are considered to be moderate to severely ill – it is not recommended for you to receive the HPV vaccine.  Still not sure if the vaccine is right for you?  Consult with your healthcare provider.  Your doctor may also ask if you have an allergy to yeast or latex.  If you’ve had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine be sure to share this with your healthcare provider.

Does the HPV vaccine offer benefits if you’re already sexually active?

Yes. Even if you already have one strain of HPV, you could still benefit from the vaccine because it can protect you from other strains that you don’t yet have. However, none of the vaccines can treat an existing HPV infection. The vaccines protect you only from specific strains of HPV that you haven’t been exposed to already.

Does the HPV vaccine carry any health risks or side effects?

Generally, the effects are usually mild. The most common side effects of HPV vaccines include soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site.

It is recommended to remain seated for 15 minutes after receiving the injection to reduce the risk of fainting.  Headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or weakness also may occur.

The HPV vaccine has been found to be safe in many studies.

What other ways can you protect yourself from cervical cancer?

Use a condom every time you have sex to protect yourself from HPV.  Do not smoke – smoking can raise the risk of cervical cancer.

Beginning at the age of 21, you should see your doctor for regular Pap tests. This will be beneficial in order to detect cervical cancer in the earliest stages. 

Seek prompt medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer.  Signs and symptoms can include vaginal bleeding after sex, between periods or after menopause, pelvic pain, or pain during sex.

We are here to help with any questions you may have about the HPV vaccine.  It is important to keep up with your well-woman exams.  Early detection of cancer can lead to early diagnosis and most importantly early action.  Make your appointment with OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch at 941.907.3008.