HPV, human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted virus. There are currently 79 million Americans infected with HPV and about 14 million people become newly affected each year. Therefore, almost all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their life if they do not receive the vaccine. HPV is spread through any form of intimate skin-to-skin contact, not just vaginal sex.
In most cases, when a person contracts HPV, their immune system prevents the virus from causing serious harm. But, in a small amount of those who contract it, the virus becomes a long-term infection and can lead to cancer. These cancers include cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women, cancers of the penis in men, and cancers of the anus and back of throat in both men and women.
HPV shows almost no visible symptoms, making it hard for a person to know if they have contracted it. HPV can cause genital warts, but this is the only side effect. It is the high-risk forms that have virtually no symptoms, but can lead to cancer. Due to the lack of symptoms, many people do not realize they have cancer until it may be too difficult or too late to treat.
HPV vaccine facts
However, there is a vaccine that can prevent this. A shot that can actually prevent a person from getting cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for ages 11-12 years old, but the series can be started at age 9 and is effective up until age 26. The only way to reduce the high number of Americans affected and these HPV related cancers is by receiving this vaccine. If a person goes unvaccinated, the infection continues to spread.
If you could prevent yourself, your child, or your patient from cancer, why wouldn’t you?
Studies have shown that preteens and teens who received HPV vaccine did not start having sex at an earlier age than those who did not receive the vaccine.
FACT: The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Before it was introduced to the public, all three HPV vaccines – Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9 – went through years of extensive safety testing with tens of thousands of participants in each study.
The FDA only licenses a vaccine if it is safe, effective and if the benefits outweigh the risks. Along with this, the CDC continues to monitor HPV vaccines to ensure the vaccine continues to be safe.
No vaccine or medicine is completely without risk. The most reported adverse events following HPV vaccination are considered extremely minor, with pain at the injection site, headache, nausea, fever or fainting being the most common. Fainting occurs in a small amount of people because it stings a little when given. Keeping vaccine recipients in a seated position for 15 minutes after the injection prevents fainting episodes.
Approximately 79 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed since the vaccine was introduced and no serious side effects have been linked to HPV vaccination.
FACT: A new study shows that health providers are less likely to offer the HPV vaccine to boys, which places the boys at risk for cancer when they get older. However, this should not be the case.
Every year around 11,000 men get cancers caused by HPV infections. With causes of anal cancer and cancers of the mouth/throat on the rise, it is now more important than ever to get vaccinated. Boys are especially vulnerable to throat cancer and by the year 2020, experts believe head and neck cancer will surpass cervical cancer as the most common cancer caused by HPV.
Boys need to be vaccinated for HPV to prevent infections that can cause cancers of the anus, penis and mouth/throat area. Unlike cervical cancer, there are no screening tests for these cancers so they are often caught at a later stage when they are much more difficult to treat.
FACT: Many parents believe that by having their child get the HPV vaccine, it is a way of allowing them to be sexually promiscuous. This is completely false.
Studies have shown that preteens and teens who received HPV vaccine did not start having sex at an earlier age than those who did not receive the vaccine. HPV also can be transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, which can occur without having sex. One study has shown that HPV was detected in 46% of females prior to their first vaginal sex experience. Unfortunately, sometimes a person's first sexual encounter is not one that they choose to have, as well.
If you are concerned, the best way to talk to your child about sex and HPV vaccine is to tell them your values and what is important to you. It is not necessary to discuss sex with your preteens before giving them the HPV vaccine, but the key is to let them know that they can freely approach you to talk about this subject.
FACT: Currently, there is no legitimate data or any evidence that suggests getting the HPV vaccine will have an effect on a woman's future fertility. In fact, getting vaccinated and protecting against HPV-related cancers can help women and families have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Not getting HPV vaccine leaves people vulnerable to HPV infection and related cancers. Treatments for cancers and precancers may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, which might cause pregnancy complications or leave someone unable to have children.
FACT: The HPV vaccine does not cause HPV infection or cancer. The HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus, and is not infectious, meaning that it cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. Not receiving HPV vaccine at the recommended ages can leave one vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV.
Learn more information about the HPV vaccine. HPV Education