The mere mention of ‘cancer’ is enough to create concern in our minds. Fortunately, we now have vaccines that can help prevent certain types of cancer. One such vaccine is the HPV vaccine. It protects against human papillomavirus – a sexually transmitted virus that affects nearly 50% of all sexually active people at some point.
While there are several types of HPV, some strains can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus. Health experts suggest that vaccinating against the HPV virus can significantly reduce your risk of developing these cancers.
About 100,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 50,000 to 60,000 die from it. Therefore, it is essential to know about this type of cancer in women and the best ways to prevent it.
HPV Vaccine Available Worldwide:
It is very effective and prevents cervical cancer because 85% to 90% of cervical cancer is due to this particular virus, and this vaccine helps fight these viruses. So if we give it to our young children and daughters, they will be protected from the infection.
The cervical cancer vaccine, or HPV vaccine, protects you from human papillomavirus, which is spread through sexual contact. HPV vaccine is the recommended vaccine for preventing cervical cancer in Indian women. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, is the main factor responsible for cervical cancer. The condition causes no symptoms, and condoms do not protect against it.
The 9-valent HPV vaccine is used in girls and young women aged 9 to 26 to prevent cervical/vaginal/vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts caused by nine HPV strains. The 9-valent HPV vaccine is even given to boys to prevent penile cancer.
Cervical Cancer Symptoms:
Cervical cancer, in its early stages, usually has no symptoms. The symptoms and signs of advanced cervical cancer are as follows:
- Vaginal bleeding occurs after sexual contact, or after menopause
- Vaginal discharge that has a foul odour
- Pelvic pain or discomfort during sexual activity.
About 80% of sexually active women acquire genital HPV by age 50. Most infections resolve spontaneously, and only a minority (<1%) progress to cancer.
A regular pap smear is essential for all sexually active women, even if they have been fully vaccinated as other factors also contribute to the development of the cervix cancer
- Long-term use of hormonal contraceptives,
- High parity,
- Early onset of sexual activity,
- Multiple sexual partners, tobacco smoking,
- Co-infection with Chlamydia trachomatis and herpes,
- Low socioeconomic status,
- Poor local hygiene
Human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 are responsible for almost 50% of high-grade cervical cancers. However, cervical cancer is preventable. HPV vaccination is strongly recommended to prevent cervical cancer.
What does the HPV vaccine do?
Research shows that the HPV vaccine can protect against nearly all types of cervical cancer. These include the two HPV types, HPV 16 and 18, responsible for most cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer vaccination or HPV vaccination is recommended for girls ages 9 to 14 . The vaccine is very effective when given before a person becomes sexually active.
What are the components of the HPV vaccine?
HPV vaccine contains tiny proteins present on the outside of real human papillomavirus. These proteins are made in the labs on yeast cells, and when fully grown, they look like human papillomaviruses. However, they do not contain the genetic material of HPV, so they do not multiply or cause disease.
In addition to these proteins, the HPV vaccine also contains sodium chloride, L-histidine, aluminum, borax, water, and polysorbate 80 to stimulate the immune system and stabilize the vaccine so that it is suitable for injection.
Who is the HPV vaccine suitable for and when should it be given?
HPV or cervical cancer vaccine is for girls and boys aged nine and over. It is given as a 3-dose shot series over six months. For best results, give the vaccine before a person becomes sexually active. But if the HPV vaccine is provided after a person has become sexually active, they will still boost their immune system’s ability to fight HPV and cervical cancer.
Who shouldn’t get vaccinated against HPV?
HPV vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women. It is also not recommended for people suffering from other medical conditions. For example, if you are prone to allergies, you should discuss this with your doctor before getting the HPV vaccination.
Is the HPV vaccination beneficial if you are already sexually active?
If a girl or boy has had unprotected sex and has already been exposed to HPV, it is still possible to get HPV vaccine. The vaccine also protects from cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV types 16 or 18. However, the HPV vaccine will not treat your existing HPV infections.
Does the HPV vaccine come with any health risks or side effects?
The vaccine may cause pain and redness at the injection site, which will subside after a few minutes. You may also experience weakness, dizziness, fainting, nausea, or vomiting after the injection. Therefore, it is recommended to sit and relax for 5 minutes after the injection.
If one already has HPV, will this vaccine treat it?
No, the HPV vaccine cannot treat existing HPV infections. The HPV vaccine only protects you from contracting HPV. To get rid of HPV, you need medication and treatment.
Will the HPV vaccine protect an individual for life?
The HPV vaccine protects you against cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18. This protection is durable and lifelong. Many recent studies have proven that the HPV vaccine provides almost 100% protection even after ten years.
The HPV vaccine induces a strong protective immune response and prevents the virus from shedding its genetic material. The two vaccines approved worldwide, Gardasil and Cervarix, are freely available in India. However, they do not protect against the strain the patient is already infected with, so the ideal time to vaccinate a girl is before onset of sexual activity . The recommended age to start vaccination is 9 to 12 years. Catch-up vaccination is permitted up to the age of 26.
How many vaccinations does one need?
For Gardasil, three doses are recommended at 0, 2, and 6 months; with Cervarix, three doses are indicated at 0, 1, and 6 months (minimum interval of four weeks between the first and second doses; twelve weeks between the second and third doses; and twenty-four weeks between the first and third doses.). HPV vaccinations can be given simultaneously with other vaccines, such as hepatitis B and Tdap. There is currently no evidence for the use of booster vaccinations.
Do women who received the HPV vaccine still need to have Pap tests?
Yes, women who have been vaccinated still need regular Pap tests. This is because the vaccine protects your body from HPV and cervical cancer but does not prevent other changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests ensure that you are identified and treated early if necessary.
If you are not in the recommended age range for vaccination, what can you do to protect yourself from cervical cancer?
If you’re not in the recommended age range for vaccinations, you can still protect yourself from cervical cancer by practicing safe sex and getting regular Pap tests.
Cervical Cancer Vaccine is a safe and effective cancer vaccine for girls and boys aged 9+. It is an essential tool in the fight against cervical cancer. However, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor before getting the HPV vaccine. Also, remember that vaccination against cervical cancer does not guarantee you complete immunity against cervical cancer. Other factors can lead to cervical cancer. So always practice safe sex and lead a healthy lifestyle.