Protect Your Child from Cancer; HPV Prevention
As a parent, your primary focus is on the safety and wellbeing of your children. While it is nearly impossible to protect kids from every danger they may encounter, it is possible to prevent certain types of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV affects nearly 80 million people – roughly 25% of the population in the US. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is an effective way to prevent several types of cancers caused by the virus
What is HPV?
The human papillomaviruses (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a group of more than 200 related viruses. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) certain strands of HPV can cause. Other forms of HPV can lead to cancer. The HPV vaccine is the primary method to protect against becoming infected or from developing the cancers associated with an HPV infection.
HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact; most commonly by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with a carrier of the disease. HPV is so common that nearly all men and women will contract the virus at some point in their lives as it can be passed easily, even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. In fact, 90% of people with HPV initially don’t show symptoms, and may develop symptoms years later, making it hard to know when they originally contracted the virus. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any significant health problems. However, when the virus does not resolve, it can cause genital warts and cancer.
HPV & Cancer
The Center for Disease Control reports about 30,700 HPV-related cancers each year in the United States. A large majority of them (about 28,000) could have been prevented with the HPV vaccination. The most common types of cancer associated with HPV are cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).
Symptoms of HPV cancer usually don’t appear until the cancer is quite advanced, which makes it harder to treat. Screening for cervical cancer during routine pap smears can help women detect and address any HPV-related health issues earlier.
Currently there aren’t any additional prevention methods available for HPV-related cancer, which makes the vaccine the best way to protect against these cancers.
The HPV vaccination series is recommended for all children between the ages of 11 and 12 years old, and generally consists of two shots six to twelve months apart. Teens who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should still consider being vaccinated due to the prevalence of this disease. The HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21.
Like any vaccine or medication, side effects may occur. In general the side effects of the vaccine are minor. The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given; dizziness, fainting, nausea and headache.
Help save lives, consider the HPV vaccine. For more information about HPV vaccination, talk to your child’s primary care physician at their annual wellness exam.