Protecting Against HPV
At the Women’s Health Medical Group, we view prevention as every bit as important as treatment. This is especially true when it comes to the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 40 different kinds of HPV that can infect the genitalia, mouth, and throats of both men and women. We offer three different vaccines to help protect our patients against HPV.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus is a virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact. During intercourse or oral sex, HPV can make its way into the genitals, mouth, or throat and cause infection.
There are many different varieties of HPV — over 40 strains — and the type of virus a person gets dictates what effects it has on his or her body. Certain types of HPV cause genital warts, others cause oral and cervical cancer. Others, although less common, cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head, and neck.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Unfortunately, HPV doesn’t show symptoms. Those infected don’t have a sore throat or fever. A person may not know she has HPV until she develops genital warts or has an abnormal Pap test. If a person is sexually active, there is a good chance of being infected with HPV over the course of a lifetime. Over 20 million people in the United States are infected with HPV.
Vaccines For HPV
Vaccination involves three shots. Currently there are three different vaccines that protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancers. The brand names are Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil-9. Cervarix protects against HPV-16 and HPV-18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers. Gardasil prevents these strains of HPV, as well as HPV-6 and HPV-11, which are behind about 90% of genital warts. Gardasil-9 protects against these four HPV strains, as well as five others.
At the Women’s Health Medical Group, we follow the guidelines of the CDC, which recommends that both boys and girls get vaccinated at age 11 or 12. If a patient is older than 12, he or she can still get the vaccine up through age 26. Vaccination involves three shots given over a six-month period.
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