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The Benefits Of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination

The Benefits Of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination

If you or your children are between the ages of 9-26, have you received the human papillomavirus vaccine?  Human papillomavirus, otherwise known as HPV, is a viral infection responsible for genital warts in both men and women, and cervical cancer in women.  Cervical cancer affects over 10,000 women in the United States each year.

In the U.S., the HPV vaccine Gardasil® is used to prevent HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18.  Strains 6 and 11 cause genital warts, and strains 16 and 18 lead to cervical precancer or cancer.

Human papillomavirus is a virus spread by skin-to-skin contact.  Condoms help to decrease transmission of infection, but do not completely prevent HPV because they do not cover all exposed genital skin.  Studies have shown that 75-80% of sexually active adults will be exposed to HPV before the age of 50.  However, most individuals are exposed to HPV for the first time between the ages of 15-25.  Individuals infected with HPV usually do not have any signs or symptoms of infection.   

HPV infection may persist and develop to become cervical cancer or precancer in about 10-20% of women.  However, it usually takes 20-25 years for an HPV infection to progress to cervical cancer.  Screening for cervical cancer with Pap smears is essential to prevent progression of HPV to cancer.

Vaccination is recommended for all girls and women ages 9-26 years old, and is recommended for boys and men 9-21 years old.  Gardasil is most protective if an individual is vaccinated before the onset of sexual activity.  However, the vaccine does not help to clear HPV infection or cervical cancer after it has already occurred.

Cervical cancer screening is recommended to begin at the age of 21.  This recommendation does not change based on whether you have received the Gardasil vaccine.

Side effects of the HPV vaccine include: tenderness, redness, or swelling at the site of injection.  The vaccine is not recommended in pregnancy.  Multiple large studies have shown no major health risks of this vaccine.    

The Gardasil vaccine has been shown to decrease the incidence of cervical cancer and precancer in women.  In addition, it has decreased the risk of genital warts in males, and decreases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women.

Contact your gynecologist, pediatrician, or primary care provider for further information with regard to the Gardasil vaccine.

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