There has been a lot of press recently about the human papilloma virus, or HPV. Some of it has been good, while some of it less than accurate. So, let’s talk briefly about HPV.
HPV is a virus that can infect people. Upwards of 80% of both women and men will contract this virus at some point in their lives. It is highly contagious and transmitted through contact such as sexual intercourse, oral sex, and other forms of skin to skin contact during sexual activity.
The bad news: HPV can cause cancer. Some of these cancers include ones that involve the cervix, the vulva, the vagina, and the anus. In addition, we are now seeing increasing rates of throat cancer caused by exposure to the HPV virus during oral sex.
The good news: Most people who are exposed to HPV will not develop cancer. Also, because we do regular pap smears in the USA, assuming a woman sees her healthcare provider on a regular basis, we can monitor signs of HPV. Even if a women develops the virus, we can provide intervention and it is very unlikely she will get cervical cancer.
Even better, is the fact that there is a vaccine to prevent HPV infection. It is called Gardasil 9. This specific vaccine will help the body provide immunity for 9 different strains of HPV, some of which can lead to genital warts, some to cervical cancer. Ideally, we like to give the vaccine to patients prior to them ever being exposed to the virus. This basically means giving the vaccine prior to the onset of any sexual exposure.
Many parents, for obvious reasons, worry that once their teen is inoculated, he or she will feel safer and more empowered and thus be more likely to engage in sexual activity. Very good studies have shown that this is simply not the case.
Many people are worried about potential side effects or adverse outcomes caused by this vaccine. The worst we see are sore arms and fainting post-vaccination. There have been no serious adverse events, and the way we know this is that all post-injection events are tracked by both the FDA and the company that makes the vaccine. Now, while there have been occurrences of people dying shortly after getting the vaccine, they died from such things as car accidents and not from a serious reaction to the vaccine.
The long and short of it is that the HPV vaccine is recommended as part of the routine vaccination protocol for both females and males ages 9-26. It can save a life. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on Gardasil 9 today.