All cancers are scary. But some cancers are highly treatable. Cervical cancer, if caught early through routine screenings and vaccination, is one of those.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the HPV vaccine gives women a better chance of protecting themselves from cervical cancer. Here’s what you need to know:
How Does the Vaccine Work?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is central to the development of cervical cancer, and HPV infections are very common. In fact, about one in four Americans currently has an HPV infection. Most healthy adults can clear the infection, but for some (mostly people age 30 and older) the infection can become chronic and persistent, which is what can lead to abnormal pap tests and, if untreated, can lead to cervical cancer.
The vaccine works to keep both women and men from contracting certain HPV strains. It’s highly effective in protecting against cervical precancers and genital warts.
Who Is It Recommended For?
Experts recommend women and men receive immunization as early as possible before being exposed to infection. This includes:
- A routine vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 to 12
- A catch-up vaccination for girls up to age 26 and boys up to age 21 who weren’t immunized at an earlier age
Why Are Pap Tests Necessary?
The vaccine doesn’t shield against all cancer-causing HPV types. It also can’t offer full protection for women already infected with HPV. Screening tests, like the Pap test, can detect most precancerous cells in the cervix. If precancerous cells are found and removed early, cancer can often be prevented.
Talk with your doctor to see if HPV vaccination is right for you or a loved one.
If vaccination protocols are implemented appropriately, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer worldwide could be prevented, in addition to precancerous cervical lesions. Pediatricians, family physicians and gynecologists all play an important part in educating parents and patients about their roles in preventing cervical cancer in the future.
To learn more about vaccinations and cervical cancer, visit our website here.