Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer and cause of death among gynecologic cancers in the United States. But fortunately, it can often be prevented with routine screenings and vaccination.
“The HPV vaccine appears to be extremely effective at preventing cervical cancer that can develop from the most common HPV subtypes known to cause it,” says AdventHealth gynecologic oncologist Dr. James Kendrick.
“When administered prior to sexual onset, it helps create immunity against these dangerous HPV subtypes.”
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 (mainly those age 30 and older) the infection can become chronic and persistent, which is what leads to abnormal Pap tests and, if untreated, can lead to cervical cancer.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 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.
Early Vaccination is Ideal
Experts recommend women and men receive immunization as early as possible before being exposed to infection.
"The vaccine is safe, effective, and should be administered to both boys and girls between the ages of nine and 12," said Dr. Kendrick.
If not vaccinated in childhood, a catch-up vaccination for girls (up to age 26) and boys (up to age 21) is an option.
The Importance of Pap Tests
The vaccine doesn’t shield against all cancer-causing HPV types. It also can’t offer full protection for those already infected with HPV. Screening tests, like a Pap smear, can detect most precancerous cells in the cervix. If precancerous cells are found and removed early, cancer can often be prevented.
Be Proactive About Prevention
Talk with your doctor to see if HPV vaccination is right for you or your child.
If vaccination protocols are implemented appropriately, approximately 90% 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.
We’re here to answer your questions and guide your family’s whole health, your whole life. To learn more about vaccinations and cervical cancer, visit the AdventHealth Cancer Institute website.