A Vaccine that Prevents Cancer? Learn More About the HPV Vaccine

A Vaccine that Prevents Cancer? Learn More About the HPV Vaccine

It sounds too good to be true: a vaccine that prevents cancer? Yes! The HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent new cases of certain types of cancer when administered before exposure.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a virus that can cause certain cancers, such as cervical, anal, or throat cancer, and diseases, such as genital warts, in both men and women. Unfortunately, because HPV often has no signs or symptoms, many people who have the virus don’t even know it.

Every year in the United States, there are about 14 million new HPV infections. About 50 percent of them are in 15- to 24-year-olds. That’s about 19,000 teens and young adults each day. Each year, 27,000 people in this country get diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV.

HPV vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing infection from certain types of HPV when given before a person is exposed to the virus.  In addition, the response to the vaccine is stronger in younger people and for this reason, we recommend vaccinating both boys and girls at age 11 or 12 years.  However, if your teen hasn’t received the vaccine, it isn’t too late!

The first HPV vaccine was approved in June of 2006 after testing in thousands of people around the world. The HPV vaccine currently licensed by the FDA and available in the United States is Gardasil. Gardasil is approved for girls or boys ages 9 to 26. It is given as a series of two or three shots over 6 months.

Talk to your child’s doctor today about starting the HPV vaccine series. In Washington state, the HPV vaccine is available at no cost to any child under age 19. Most insurance companies cover the vaccine for individuals ages 19-26.

Intercourse is the most common way that people get the HPV virus, but can also be contracted by any genital contact with someone who is infected. For most people, HPV clears on its own. But, for others who don’t clear the virus, it could cause certain cancers and other diseases. Women are now screened for HPV infection when they have a routine pap test, but there is no screening test recommended for men.  For more information on HPV and the HPV vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines or www.hpv.com.

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Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office