50% of all sexually active individuals have HPV but the body’s immune system clears the virus. However, in some cases the virus stays on and can cause cancer
A vaccine is given to prevent a disease. This means it needs to be taken ahead of the onset of the disease for it to be fully effective. Frequently people believe that natural immunity is the best way to combat disease, which may be true. But when the disease can result in dire consequences, it is better to take precaution and save a life. The HPV vaccine has been proven to effectively eliminate certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus that are known to cause cervical cancer. It is not often that we have a sure-fire way to prevent cancer; so when the opportunity is there it is smart to grab it.
WHAT IS HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. It is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical, anal and throat cancer and in some cases genital warts. 50% of all sexually active individuals have HPV but the body’s immune system clears the virus. However, in some cases the virus stays on and can cause trouble. There are over one hundred types of HPV, and the available vaccines are equipped to attack the strains that are known to be cancer causing.
HPV RELATED CANCERS
HPV is estimated to cause cancer in thousands of people globally. It is a common virus and is usually eliminated by the immune system. But when that does not happen, it can lead to several types of cancer in both men and women. HPV in women can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, anus, and vulva. It can cause cancer of the penis and anus in men. It is also known to cause some types of throat cancers as well. Taking the HPV vaccine on schedule is the best way to stay protected.
HPV VACCINE SCHEDULE
HPV vaccine be given to girls and boys between ages 11 and 12. It can be given as early as age 9. It is ideal for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are exposed to HPV.
It is given as two doses, 6 to 12 months apart.
HPV VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS
One need not worry about side effects. Very few have been reported. Mild side effects could be:
If the person has severe allergic reactions such as trouble breathing, hives or swelling of the throat/face, immediate medical attention is paramount.
HPV VACCINE FOR MEN
Most often HPV is associated with Cervical Cancer and hence we tend to assume the vaccine is only for girls and women. This is a grave misconception. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, men can be carriers of the cancer-causing strain of HPV that can infect their sex partner. Recent studies show an increased number of HPV related cancers in men as well. Men who have multiple sex partners, who have male sex partners and who have HIV, are at elevated risk for developing anal, penile and throat cancers related to persistent HPV infection. The best way to stay protected is to get the HPV vaccine, to use a condom during sex and avoid multiple sex partners.
SENIOR CONSULTANT – OBSTETRICS & GYNAECOLOGY
MBBS, DGO, MS (OG), DNB (OG) , FMAS