The Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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All across North America girls between the ages of 11 and 12 have the opportunity to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV,) and it may soon be available for girls as young as nine. The vaccine is the first ever to be given in hopes of preventing cervical cancer, which strikes 10,000 women in the US annually. 4,000 of those women succumb to cervical cancer. In 2005, the World Health Organization reported that 500,000 cases of cervical cancer were reported.

Unfortunately, cervical cancer can strike when women are very young. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted, women can become infected as soon as they are sexually active. Some women suffer from cervical cancer before they’ve even had children. Others contact it while they’re raising a young family. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women and if treatment is successful, the disease often causes infertility.

HPV is responsible for the majority of cervical cancer. There are a variety of strains of HPV and they are all spread through sexual contact. The new cervical cancer vaccine blocks type 16 and type 18 HPVs and stops cervical cancer before it has a chance to take root.

Health professionals and researchers state that the cervical cancer vaccine activates a girl’s immune system before she comes into contact with HPV and when the vaccine is given at a young age, it gives a higher level of protection. The vaccine must be given in three separate doses within a six month period in order to be effective. The second dose is administered two months after the original vaccination. The third is given six months after the original.

Females between 13 and 26 should have an update vaccination if they didn’t receive the vaccine or if they missed having the full series of vaccines, according to officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This will allow the results of the cervical cancer vaccine to be seen much sooner. It’s possible that a booster shot may be needed in the future, but this has yet to be determined.

The cervical cancer vaccine was tested on women ages 26 and younger who were sexually active. Some of the women had already been infected with HPV. The vaccine was found to be effective as long as the women had not been infected with types 16 or 18 HPV. The number of sexual partners had a direct bearing on HPVs - the more sexual partners, the larger the chance of being exposed to HPV.

In the group of women tested with the cervical cancer vaccine, few complained of any type of side effects and those who did report side effects described sore arms and flu-like symptoms. However, since the vaccine is new, future side effects have not been determined and whether or not there will be any serious side effects is yet to be seen.

Routine school vaccinations in most US states now include the cervical cancer vaccine. Whether or not it is mandatory is determined by each individual state.

Women should definitely continue to have annual Pap tests whether or not they’ve received the cervical cancer vaccine. A Pap test and regular pelvic examinations are a necessary preventative measure for all sexually active women, no matter what the age.

To prevent being infected with an HPV, a condom should always be used during sex. Women should also limit the number of partners they are sexually active with. The more partners a woman is sexually active with, the more chance of contacting an HPV, which in turn increases the risk of cervical cancer.

In most states, it is up to parents to decide whether or not their daughters should have the cervical cancer vaccine. The vaccine is still in the experimental stages and there is no way to determine if side effects will become apparent in the future. Some parents are concerned that the cervical cancer vaccine will cause promiscuity. Only time will tell. Talk to your daughter before signing her up to receive the cervical cancer vaccine at school and use wisdom when choosing whether or not to give permission for it to be administered.

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