Don’t Give Cervical Cancer a Chance, Vaccinate Against HPV
Parents never want to see their children in harm’s way. But, in a surprising new study, researchers found that teen girls who live in states with the highest cervical cancer rates are least likely to get vaccinated against HPV.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, causes almost all cervical cancers. So, this lack of immunization means the trend of more cancers will likely continue. Learning about the vaccine—and encouraging your teen to get it—can help break the trend, no matter where you reside.
Vaccination Leads to Better Health
The HPV vaccine does an excellent job of vanquishing the virus. Studies show the shot provides nearly 100-percent protection against precancerous growths. It also offers a potent defense against the strain of HPV that causes genital warts.
What’s more, the side effects from the vaccine are typically mild and include arm swelling, fever, and headache. And because the shot contains only one protein from the HPV virus, it can’t cause infections or cancer.
Facts about HPV
HPV is spread through sexual contact. Almost all sexually active adults will eventually catch at least one of the more than 40 strains. In fact, about 79 million Americans currently have HPV.
Nine out of 10 times, these infections go away on their own—and many cause no symptoms at all. Most people never even know they’re infected.
But one in 10 people will eventually develop health problems from HPV. Besides cervical cancer, these include:
Anal, vulvar, vaginal, or penile cancer
Cancer in the back of the throat
Every year, cancer caused by HPV strikes about 17,500 women and 9,300 men. And one in 100 sexually active adults has genital warts at any given time.
The Time to Act Is Now
Your pre-teens’ doctor may ask you about getting your child the shot. You might be surprised that he or she brings it up, even if you don’t think your child is sexually active. But the HPV vaccine works best in people who haven’t yet been exposed to the virus through sexual contact.
Current guidelines advise that all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 get two doses of the HPV vaccine spaced at least six months apart. But even older teens and young adults can benefit. Women can get the vaccine until age 26, and men through age 21. Some men, such as those with compromised immune systems, can catch up on the vaccine through age 26 if they weren’t vaccinated earlier.