HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer
"There are a lot of things that I can't protect her against, but this is something that I can"
“I’m a cervical cancer survivor,” says Chelleses. “I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 29 years old.
Some of my biggest fears around my diagnosis were not being there to raise my daughter. I know a few people who didn’t survive this, and I really look at the HPV vaccine as cancer prevention.
I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone, especially my daughter. And so there are a lot of things that I can’t protect her against, but this is something that I can prevent.”
A 1-minute video from Cervivor.
I don't want my daughters coming to me in 20 years saying I didn't protect them from cervical cancer
“I’m a board certified pediatrician,” says Yabo Beysolow, MD. “I’ve practiced pediatrics now for about 14 years, and I always tell my parents I give the vaccine to both of my daughters.
I really do not want them to come to me 20 years from now and say mom, I have cervical cancer and you did nothing to protect me.
This is a vaccine that is safe, is effective and it can prevent cancer.”
A 1-minute video form the CDC.
"If the HPV vaccine was available when I was younger, I believe I wouldn't have had to go through all this cancer"
“My name is Constance Hill. I am 36 years old. I’m from Southern California. I was first diagnosed in 2014 with cervical cancer.
I had a radical hysterectomy, radiation and chemo and brachytherapy. I had a recurrence and did a clinical trial. It’s still there. So I’m currently going to start a clinical trial for a targeted therapy. I’ve had a lot of anxiety dealing with everything.
If the HPV vaccine was available when I was younger, I believe I wouldn’t have had to go through all this cancer. Anything.
My advice for parents considering the HPV vaccine is do it. Why would you not if you can save your child from having to go through all the cancer treatments?”
A 1-minute video from MD Anderson Cancer Center.
About the HPV Vaccine in the U.S.
The only HPV vaccine approved and available in the United States is called Gardasil 9, produced by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck. It’s called “9” because it protects against 9 strains of HPV: numbers 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
These strains are associated with the majority of cervical cancer, anal cancer, and throat cancer cases, as well as most genital warts cases and some other HPV-associated ano-genital diseases.
The vaccine was initially approved for only cervical cancer prevention, but in 2020 the FDA broadened approval to include the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer and other head and neck cancers.
Source: “The HPV Vaccine: Access and Use in the U.S.” on the KFF, also known as The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, website.
How the HPV vaccine helps to prevent cervical cancer
When you are vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, your immune system is capable of combatting most of the types of HPV which can cause cervical cancer.
Many large studies have shown the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing dysplasia (precancerous changes in cells) and cervical cancer.
In one of the studies of the vaccine, young girls who received a placebo shot were more than 50 times more likely to develop cervical dysplasia after 4 years than girls who received the HPV vaccine.
A 3-minute video from the Danish Medicines Agency in partnership with the World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe.
Young Males Need the HPV vaccine to Protect Themselves, Too
“A lot of people typically associate HPV infections with cervical cancer, but high-risk HPV can cause a variety of cancers, including oropharyngeal cancer, which is cancer of the throat, tonsils and back of the tongue,” says Michelle Chen, MD, of the University of Michgan.
Over 80 percent of the people in the United States who get oropharyngeal cancer are men. Over the past decade, oropharyngeal cancer has been increasing in incidence and it’s the fastest rising HPV-associated malignancy.
A 3-minute video from Michigan Medicine.
Common Questions about HPV Vaccines
Will the vaccine help my HPV go away faster?
Why should my son get the vaccine?
My children are not yet sexually active, do they need the vaccine?
My children are older than 11 or 12. Is it too late to get the vaccine?
If I get the vaccine I won’t have to worry about HPV anymore, right?
If someone is sexually active can they still get the vaccine?
How safe is the vaccine?
What are the most common side effects?
How can I pay for the vaccine?
For answers to these questions: “HPV Vaccines” by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization serving women with, or at risk for, cervical cancer and HPV disease.
HPV vaccine recommendations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020)
HPV vaccination is recommended for all preteens (including girls and boys) at age 11–12 years. CDC recommends that 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine 6 to 12 months apart.
Teens and young adults through age 26 years who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination. Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, need three doses of HPV vaccine.
Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections.
The only HPV vaccine currently distributed in the United States is Gardasil-9 (from Merck), which protects against 9 HPV types, including types 16 and 18 that cause most HPV cancers.
Source: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know (2020)
American Cancer Society (2020)
HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90% of HPV cancers when given at the recommended ages. The American Cancer Society recommends that boys and girls get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 12. Teens and young adults through age 26 who are not already vaccinated should get the HPV vaccine as soon as possible. Teens who start the series late may need 3 shots instead of 2. HPV vaccination is not recommended for persons older than 26 years.
Source: American Cancer Society. Prevent 6 Cancers with the HPV Vaccine. (2020)
American Academy of Pediatrics
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine HPV vaccination for females and males. The Academy recommends starting the series between 9 and 12 years, at an age that the provider deems optimal for acceptance and completion of the vaccination series.”
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Why AAP recommends initiating HPV vaccination as early as age 9 (2019)