HPV or Human Papilloma viruses are a group of about 200 viruses. More than 40 HPV types can be easily spread from the skin and mucous membranes of infected people. The low-risk HPV types mainly cause papillomas or warts, mostly benign. High-risk HPV types 16 and 18 can cause cancers. HPV is the only vaccine, which can be successfully used to prevent the cancer caused by HPV viral infection in both women and men.
HPV vaccine prevents the following types of cancers
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women
- cancers of the penis in men
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
How you may catch the HPV infection?
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. It mainly spreads while having vaginal and anal sex, sometimes also through oral sex with someone who has the viral infection. The infected partner may or may not have any signs or symptoms of infection. Symptoms may appear years after being infected, making it impossible to find about it during your sexually active years.
In rare circumstances, a pregnant woman with HPV can pass the infection to her baby during delivery. The newborn baby may suffer from a rare disease where warts caused by HPV grows inside the throat, called as respiratory papillomatosis (RRP).
Symptoms of HPV infection
Genital warts may appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be of different types like small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A doctor can diagnose warts visually by inspecting the genital area.
Mostly, HPV infection resolves on its own without any medication and posing serious problems. Sometimes, it causes genital warts and cancer.
HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
What are the chances to get cancer due to HPV infection?
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age in India. HPV infection causes 22.86% of all cancer cases in women. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year in US. HPV infections are very common. Almost 80% men and women may get at least one type of HPV (not necessarily the cancerous type) at some stage of their lives.
HPV vaccine for young girls
The HPV vaccine provides about 100% protection from cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18, if given at a younger age before the start of any sexual activity. The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen girls at the age of 11 or 12, so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. The good news is that this vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older adolescents. Your girl will need only 2 doses of HPV vaccine if you give both the doses before she turns 15. The second dose of HPV vaccine should be given six to twelve months after the first dose. It is important to keep the minimum gap of at least 6 months, otherwise a 3rd dose will be required.
How early can HPV vaccine be given?
You may start the vaccination as early as your daughter turns 9. It may feel a bit awkward to take her for vaccination for a sexually transmitted disease. But, why take a chance if we can easily protect her from nasty cancer in future.
Are HPV vaccines safe?
HPV vaccines are absolutely safe with some mild side effects like pain in the arm where the shot was given, fever, dizziness and nausea. Girls should sit or lie down after receiving vaccination for about 15 minutes to prevent fainting. Serious allergic reactions to vaccination may occur if your child is allergic to latex or yeast present in the vaccine. Tell the doctor if you know about these allergies. Choose a holiday for vaccination!!
What if HPV vaccine was not given earlier?
If you didn’t take your teen girl for vaccination, do it now. HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26. If vaccination is not started before 15 years, she will need three doses of HPV vaccine. For three-dose schedule, 2nd dose should be given 1 to 2 months after the 1st dose, and the 3rd dose should be given 6 months after the 1st dose.
It’s true that, vaccine provides the absolute protection before someone has engaged in any sexual activity. But, still that should not stop a girl or woman from having a vaccine. She might not be exposed to the cancerous types of HPV, for which the vaccine provides protection.
Schedule an appointment today itself with the doctor to get the vaccination done. See latest and revised vaccination schedule.