One simple vaccine has the potential power to save your child from devastation. The HPV vaccination can not only prevent cancers in both boys and girls as they enter into adulthood, but can also prevent other cancers from overshadowing their futures.
Through the years, the scales have tipped favorably towards HPV vaccination. An HPV shot regimen has evolved to include several additional types of viruses which prevent not only cancer but a socially devastating STD.
Just a generation ago, we were all clueless about cervical cancer’s effects on women. Through technological advances, it is now known that the cancer is caused by, at a minimum, a single strain of HPV. In 2006, Gardasil was marketed as the HPV shot to prevent infection against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. (According to the National Cancer Institute, there are over 200 types.) Types 16 and 18, however, cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, while types 6 and 11 cause genital warts.
Since then, the HPV vaccine has been improved to include protection against 9 types–the initial 4 above, as well as types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. These additional strains are an entire “rogue’s gallery” of HPV types that cause 90% of all cervical cancers. This has significantly tipped the scale in favor of the pros over the cons regarding HPV vaccinations.
How does HPV infection happen?
The transmission of HPV is through sexual contact. As such, it can be prevented by practicing abstinence. However, in the real world, it is unlikely that any person with whom you may choose to have sexual contact will do so. The troubling truth is that HPV shares the entire world with us and abstinence is usually time-limited. Therefore, the most reasonable prevention is via vaccination with the HPV shot.
What are the signs and symptoms of HPV infection?
The signs and symptoms of HPV infection are not the virus itself, but the virus’s effects on your body. Therefore, the HPV virus can be–and often is– present without any signs or symptoms. Screening has made signs and symptoms rare, but unscreened women who have signs and/or symptoms (e.g., abnormal Pap smears, vaginal bleeding) may have advanced disease.
A good question: should my child get the HPV vaccine? A window of opportunity may be closing.
HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease. Some middle school children harbor it; many high schoolers, too. And so it goes, going up with age. In fact, most vaccination strategies recommend that it not even be offered to men after age 26, or after age 21 in women, because it is felt that enough sexual contact would have already resulted in infection, closing the window of opportunity for vaccination-induced antibodies to work. Thus, responsible parents will recognize that window of opportunity: your child should be vaccinated, ideally, before he or she becomes sexually active. Thereafter, there is still no real downside. In the general population, the ideal age which is still considered the time for a pre-emptive strike would be 9 years old, for both boys and girls.
But boys don’t have a cervix.
True, but cervical cancer is not the only malignancy prevented. While anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers have been added to what HPV causes in girls and adult women, the boys are not off the hook. Anal cancer and even throat cancer lurk well into their midlives as a possibility, as well.
Also, there is the significant psychological devastation of genital warts on both boys and girls. Just because they are not cancer is no comfort for a young person beginning his or her sexual identity with what is considered a social scourge. Coming of age is hard enough!
What does age 21 or 26 and letting go of the steering wheel have in common?
These ages are a statistical cut-off. Actuary tables indicate that most people have not only been sexually active by then but have had enough sexual partners to almost guarantee exposure to several HPV virus types. But what about:
Something about this conjures the picture of a person who has a sudden flat tire, saying that there is no use for steering.
Another good question: should I get the HPV vaccination series?
If you are under 21 or 26 (women vs. men, respectively), all of the evidence points to a strong yes. Even though the actuary tables are great for bell-curve medicine, age is no red line in the reproductive sand. Considering the HPV shot later is a personal decision between you and your doctor.
Who would not benefit from the HPV vaccine?
If a couple were both abstinent until marriage and remained monogamous, this would qualify. “Pretty much” and “mostly” do not qualify for this designation.
What are the actual pros and cons of getting the HPV vaccine?
As stated above, the pros and cons of the HPV vaccine are heavily weighted toward the pros:
As you might readily conclude, in agreement with the most recent data, these vaccines are safe.
HPV has joined the list of must-have vaccines. For you and/or your children.
At The Woman’s Clinic, we feel that the HPV vaccine has proven itself indispensable for females (and males), along with flu vaccines, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, measles/mumps/rubella, and varicella (chicken pox). Certainly, getting yet another routine injection is inconvenient, but so is having your life threatened. Today’s generation is saddled with these inconveniences, but the moral of the story is that the generations before never reached today’s life expectancy; this is an opportunity to further increase yours or your children’s. Your easiest way is to simply click here for an appointment with your Little Rock gynecologist. Close the door on HPV disease before the window closes for you or your children.