Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (Gardasil)

This is an anti-cancer vaccine

It is a vaccine against a cancer-causing virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

This virus can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva, as well as anal, oral and throat cancers and genital warts in men and women. About 12,000 women develop cervical cancer each year in the U.S. and more than 10 women die of cervical cancer in this country every day (about 4000 per year).

The HPV vaccine can prevent about 70% of the cervical cancer in this country, as well as genital warts and the other types of cancer HPV causes, if given before there is any exposure to the virus. The virus is passed from men to women and women to men through sexual contact. About 50% of men and women are eventually exposed to this virus. 

The full benefit of the vaccine occurs only if given before exposure to the HPV. Therefore, the vaccine is recommended to be given at 11-12 years of age to both boys and girls. It can be given up to age 26 years of age but younger people are less likely to have already been exposed and have a better immune response to the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine has been used for the past 6 years around the world. It is very safe with few side effects.  The most frequent complaints from adolescents are that multiple shots are required over 6 months for full immunity and there is pain associated with the shot itself.  Pain occurs in about 80% of people but lasts for only a short time. Headache may occur in up to 33%. Redness or swelling at the site of the shot occurs in 25%. Mild fever (100 F) occurs in only 10% and fever of 102 F occurs in only 1.5%. 

PAP smears in women have greatly reduced the number of women who die of cervical cancer worldwide. These depend on detecting cancer cells early.  The HPV vaccine is an additional means to dramatically decrease the number of new cancer cases by preventing them in the first place.

Heritage Pediatrics, a member of PinnacleHealth Medical Group


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