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Everything about Cervical cancer vaccine – HPV vaccine

Maitri Woman

Team Maitri

Mar 11, 2022

Cancer is a disease that all of us are scared of & we wish to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, most cancers cannot be predicted or prevented and so cancer is a leading cause of death even in the modern world.

However, there is a silver lining to this dismal picture and fortunately, modern medicine has been able to solve the mystery for some specific types of cancers.

Cervical cancer is one such disease for which, we have been able to identify the causative factors and also formulate preventive strategies to avoid developing the cancer of the cervix.

Do you know that cancer of the cervix (Cervical cancer) is the second most common form of cancer in women and the commonest cause for cervical cancer is infection by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is transmitted by direct sexual contact between partners?

Quick Fact

HPV is the most common type of STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) all over the world.

There are almost 200 types of HPV which can infect human beings and out of these, about 40 types are transmitted through sexual contact.

Among these, 2 types of HPV (Type 6 & 11) are the leading cause of 90% of genital warts ( irregular, cauliflower like growths around the genitals or anus ) which are usually not cancerous.

Apart from these, about a dozen types of HPV lead to cancers of cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, throat, esophagus & penis).

The commonest types associated with cancers are type 16,18,31,33,45,52 & 58.

Most often, the immune system of a person gets to work as soon as an HPV infection is acquired and usually, the infection clears off within a few months. 

But sometimes, in some people, the infection may persist & cause cancerous changes in the body cells. 

So, the best way to prevent cervical cancer is to prevent the infection by HPV or to ensure that the body’s immunity fights effectively against the virus and prevents it from persisting or developing into cancer.

 

How can you prevent HPV infection? 

  • Well, one way to prevent acquiring the infection is to use condoms or dental dams everytime that you have sex. 
  • Another important precaution is that you should be sure of the sexual history of your partner. It is preferable to stay in a monogamous relationship but if you do have multiple sexual partner, it is essential to be absolutely sure of their sexual history and exposure to STD’s.
  • The most important step, however, is to get yourself vaccinated against HPV . HPV vaccination grants almost 90% protection against HPV related cancers.

When is the HPV vaccine given?

The best age to give HPV vaccination is between 9-14 years of age. However, you can still take it upto the age of 26 years if you have missed it earlier. 

Between the age of 26 -45 years, you may take it if your doctor recommends so but there is no benefit of taking the vaccine after 45 years. 

What are the types of HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccines available in the market are of 3 types

  • Bivalent ( Cervarix) - These protect against 2 types of HPV – Type 16 & 18 ( The high risk viruses for cervical cancer).
  • Quadrivalent ( Gardasil) - Protect against 4 types of viruses- Type 6,11,16 & 18 ( The High risk HPV related to cervical cancer & Genital warts).
  • Nonavalent ( Gardasil 9)- Protect against 9 types of HPV- 6,11,16,18, 31,33,45,52 & 58.

The costs of the three types of vaccines differ and also sometimes the availability differs according to the country that you are residing in. So, you need to check with your doctor which vaccine is most suitable & available for you.

How is the HPV vaccine given?

HPV vaccine is given as an intramuscular injection in your arm or the thigh muscle. 

The dosage schedule is as follows

  • 9-14 years-  2 doses are given at a gap of 6 months ( 0,6 months).
  • 14-26 years – 3 doses are given – 0,2,6 months.

The second dose is given 2  months after the first dose & the third dose is given 4 months after the second dose.

  • 26-45 years – 3 doses – 0,2,6 months. 
  • For people whose immunity is compromised- 0,2,6 months. 

What if I miss a dose of the HPV vaccine?

If you have taken one or two doses & miss the next dose, you do not need to repeat the previous dose. You can simply take the missed dose after checking with your healthcare provider.

What are the side effects of HPV vaccine?

Usually, there are no serious side effects of the vaccine. The most common side effects are

  • Redness or soreness at the injection site. 
  • Mild fever.
  • Bodyache.
  • Nausea or giddiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Pain in the joints.
  • Very rarely, there may be jerky movements or allergic reactions to the vaccine & you should immediately consult your doctor in such a case.

Who should not take the HPV vaccine?

By & large, HPV vaccines are safe for most people. However, you should avoid the vaccine if

  • You are pregnant.
  • You had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the previous dose.
  • You are allergic to yeast, you should avoid Gardasil.

Can I skip Pap’s smear or screening for cervical cancer if I have taken the HPV vaccine?

No, it is not recommended to miss your Pap’s smear/ Co-testing even if you have taken the HPV vaccine.
 
The vaccines that are available so far cannot protect against all types of HPV and so the screening tests for cervical cancers should still be done as recommended to detect any pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in the cervix.

Do I still need to take the vaccine if my Pap’s smear is abnormal?

Yes, even if your Pap’s smear is abnormal and you are in the age group recommended for vaccination, it is advisable for you to take the vaccine after discussing with your doctor.
 
The reason for this is that the vaccine may protect you against other high-risk variants of HPV & protect against the development of cervical cancer.

Quick fact

Ever since HPV vaccination was introduced in 2006, the incidence of HPV infection causing genital warts among teenage girls has reduced by 88%.

Fun Facts

Fun fact

The HPV vaccine was first developed at University of Queensland in 1990. After multiple clinical trials, it was approved by FDA for public use in 2006.

For more information on Menstrual Health & Hygiene, please check our other videos

Maitri Woman

Team Maitri

Mar 11, 2022

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