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March 2019

Don’t Give Cervical Cancer a Chance, Vaccinate Against HPV

Parents never want to see their children in harm’s way. Yet according to recent data, 51% of teens have not received all the recommended doses of the HPV vaccine.

Healthcare provider preparing to give vaccine to young woman

HPV, or human papillomavirus, causes almost all cervical cancers. Learning about the vaccine—and encouraging your kids to get it—can reduce their risk for infection and HPV-related diseases.

Vaccination leads to better health

The HPV vaccine does an excellent job of vanquishing the virus. Clinical trials show the shot provides nearly 100% protection against precancers. 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 virus, it can’t cause HPV infections or cancer.

Facts about HPV      

HPV is spread through sexual contact. Almost every sexually active person will eventually catch at least one of the more than 40 strains if they don’t get the vaccine. In fact, nearly 80 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 have HPV. But 1 in 10 infections will eventually cause health problems. Besides cervical cancer, these include:

  • Anal, vulvar, vaginal, or penile cancer

  • Genital warts

  • Cancer in the back of the throat

Every year, cancer caused by HPV affects about 19,400 women and 12,100 men. And it’s estimated that 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the U.S. has genital warts at any given time.

The time to act is now      

Your preteen’s healthcare provider 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 recommendations advise that all boys and girls age 11 or 12 get 2 doses of the HPV vaccine spaced at least 6 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 a weakened immune system, can catch up on the vaccine through age 26 if they weren’t vaccinated earlier.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/20/2018
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