If I told you there was a vaccine to prevent cancer, would you get it?
Would you vaccinate your children?
In 2006, this type of vaccine became available. The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine we have had that can prevent cancer. HPV virus causes 99% of all cases of cervical cancer, as well as genital warts. Getting the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 can prevent these terrible diseases, in girls and boys. And since the vaccine became available, the number of cases of cervical cancer and of genital warts has decreased drastically.
HPV – short for human papillomavirus– is so common that most Americans will be exposed to it at some point in their lives. We estimate at least 80 million Americans currently have this virus. Most people never know they are infected, and they can pass it to their sex partners without ever knowing it.
The time to get the vaccine is before you are exposed to the virus, which is why it is recommended for children ages 11-12. You can have this vaccine up to age 26, and current studies are ongoing to see if we can give it to adults beyond that age.
The HPV vaccine has proven nearly 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine was tested for over 10 years in over 30,000 patients before it was released for general use, making it an extremely safe vaccine. Side effects are pain and redness at the injection site, and sometimes fever and headache – the same side effects you can expect from any vaccine.
The vaccine does not affect future fertility. In fact, it protects women from cervical disease which could require surgery and treatments that might affect future pregnancies.
Now, as a parent, wouldn’t you want your child to have this protection?
This is Dr. Susan Nelson for Church Health.