Vaccination Against Cervical Cancer

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Most cervical cancers are caused by the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccination will reduce the impact of cervical cancer worldwide.

How does the cervical cancer vaccine work?

Various strains of HPV, transmitted through sexual contact, cause most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccines can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if given before girls or women expose to the virus.

The vaccine can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in women, and can prevent genital warts and anal cancer in women and men. Vaccinating boys against HPV might also help protect girls from the virus by possibly decreasing transmission.

Who needs the cervical cancer vaccine and when should it be used?

The cervical cancer vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 to 12, although it can be given as early as age 9 up to the age of 45. It's important for girls and boys to have the vaccine before they have sexual contact and exposed to HPV. Once infected with HPV, the vaccine might not be as effective. Response to the vaccine is better at younger ages than it is at older ages.

The vaccines are given as a series of three injections over a six-month period. The second dose is given one to two months after the first dose, and the third dose is given six months after the first dose.

Who doesn’t have to do the cervical cancer vaccine?

The cervical cancer vaccine isn't recommended for pregnant women or people who are moderately or severely ill. If you have any severe allergies, including an allergy to yeast or latex inform the doctor. Also, if you've had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of the vaccine, you shouldn't get the vaccine.

Are there any benefits of the cervical cancer vaccine if you're already sexually active?

Yes, even if you already have HPV, you could still benefit from the vaccine. Because the vaccines will protect you from specific strains of HPV to which you haven't been exposed.

Does the cervical cancer vaccine have any health risks or side effects?

The effects are usually mild. The most common side effects of HPV vaccines include soreness at the injection site (the arm), headaches and low-grade fever. Sometimes dizziness or fainting occurs after the injection. Remaining seated for 15 minutes after the injection can reduce the risk of fainting. They might also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain.

Is the cervical cancer vaccine required as a routine vaccine?

The cervical cancer vaccine is part of the routine childhood vaccines schedule.

Do women who received the cervical cancer vaccine still need to have Pap Smear tests?

Yes. The cervical cancer vaccine doesn’t replace Pap smear tests. Routine screening for cervical cancer through regular Pap smear tests remains an essential part of a woman's preventive health care.

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