The HPV Discussion


Oct 2014

THE HPV Discussion

by Val Dinklenburg, Appointment Coordinator/Ob-Gyne Associates of Libertyville, S.C.

If your doctor told you there is a vaccine available that prevents cancer, what would you say? “Really?!”   Well it’s true, known as the HPV vaccine (Human papillomavirus), it can prevent cervical cancer.

ACOG (American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists) defines HPV as a group of more than 120 different types of viruses (of which some are sexually transmitted). One person can spread HPV to another by genital-genital contact, oral-genital contact or sexual intercourse. The oral, anal or genital areas of men and women can become infected.*

“HPV types 16 and 18 cause about 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. Genital warts are a sign of HPV infection (caused by HPV types 6 and 11). However, an infection of the cervix usually has NO symptoms. This means an infected person can spread HPV to another person without knowing.”

 That’s a bit scary, don’t you think?

ACOG recommends the HPV vaccination for girls and boys aged 11 or 12 (can be given as young as 9). Those not vaccinated at the target age can be vaccinated from ages 13 to 26. You may say, “I’m not sexually active and don’t plan to be for a long time.” Studies prove this is the best time to get vaccinated, before sexual activity occurs. Research shows the vaccines produce a better immune response when given at a younger age, however, sexually active individuals may still benefit since they are unlikely to have been infected with all the HPV types prevented by the vaccine. This is why the vaccine is recommended up to age 26. It’s important to know that HPV vaccines prevent infection, but cannot treat infection.*

Here’s some good news for those that may have started the HPV vaccination series (3 doses given as an injection in the arm, over a 6 month period), but are late or forgot to go for the remaining dose(s)-you do not have to start over!   Dr. Jennifer Schaefer of Ob-Gyne Associates of Libertyville, encourages her patients to “go and get the next dose to complete the series, even if the time between is longer than recommended.”

If you’re concerned about the safety of the vaccines, studies show that both vaccines (types 16,18 & 6,11) are very safe and effective. They have been given to millions of people around the world without serious side effects. They do not contain “live” viruses, so they cannot cause an HPV infection. Common mild side effects may include pain at the injection site, fever, headache and nausea.*

So the next time you see your doctor, have the HPV discussion if you haven’t already- it’s time. Educate yourself, your friends, your family…

It’s about preventing cervical cancer. Really!  Spread the word, not the disease….

**The American College of Obstetricians and GynecologistsHuman papillomavirus vaccination. Committee Opinion No. 588. American College of Obstetricians and

Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2014;123:712–8.

 



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