What is HPV?
HPV is umbrella term for over 150 closely related viruses. Some HPV types lead to rash and warts, others can lead to cancer. Both men and women are susceptible to HPV cancer of the mouth, throat, anus, and rectum. Men can develop penile HPV cancer, and women can develop cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancer. Cervical HPV cancer is the most common and if left untreated, it can lead to infertility among other complications.
How Do People Contract HPV?
HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, thus is considered a sexually transmitted disease.
About 9 in 10 people who are sexually active will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. Many will never know that they are even infected, so regular screenings at the gynecologist or physician are important. Since there is no cure for HPV, early detection and management are essential in minimizing complications.
There are very safe and effective vaccinations that prevent HPV. Specifically, there are 3 brands of the HPV vaccination and all prevent against HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancers. These are called Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. Gardasil also protects from HPV types that lead to 90% of genital wart cases. Gardasil 9 also protects against various other forms of HPV cancer, including cancers of the cervix, anus, vulva, and vagina.
The vaccines are administered through a series of 2 or 3 shots given over 6 months, depending on the individual’s age. The vaccine is available for anyone between ages 9 and 26. Although it may seem alarming to vaccinate their child for an STD, the HPV vaccine is most effective when administered years before sexual activity. For this reason, it is recommended that children ages 11 and 12 get the vaccine. Once there is exposure to HPV, there is no way to be vaccinated and no cure for the infection.
Studies have shown that there is no correlation between children who are vaccinated and increased sexual intercourse. Therefore, having your children vaccinated will not encourage sexual activity, it will only prevent certain harmful cancers from occurring in the future.
Many insurance companies cover the cost of this vaccine so talk with your physician about HPV vaccine options today and live a better tomorrow!
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