We talk about HPV on EmpowHER a lot. We receive questions almost daily about its transmission, consequences and treatment options. We talk about how to avoid exposure in the first place which is essentially accomplished by limiting sexual partners, using protection and getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccine has been available for young women for several years now and is also now being advertised for boys and young men.
The vaccine is not taken in one dose. It's recommended that the dose is taken in three stages within six months. The age recommended for girls is about eleven or twelve years. It is further recommended that an additional dose be taken before the age of twenty-six.
Dr. Abbey B. Berenson, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch, studied more than half a million females who got an initial shot between 2006 and 2009. Their insurance records were studied to see if follow-up shots were received.
The percentage of girls who got all three shots dropped quite drastically from 50 percent in 2006 to only 22 percent in 2009.
As Dr. Berenson started in an interview with the New York Times, "... there was an increase in completion only among the 2 percent of women older than 27 who received the shots off-label, to 24 percent in 2009 from 15 percent in 2006. Those who received the vaccination from a clinic were less likely to complete the series, compared with those who received the shots from a pediatrician. Those who got the vaccinations from a gynecologist were most likely to get all three shots."
Because the vaccine does not work correctly unless taken as prescribed, these figures are troubling. According to EmpowHER, HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and is a leading cause of cervical cancer.
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
■ Infection of the cervix with the human papillomavirus (HPV) — the primary risk factor for cervical cancer
■ History of cervical dysplasia (a precancerous condition)
■ Being a woman whose mother took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
■ Age: over 25 years old
■ Multiple sexual partners
■ Sexual activity prior to age 18
■ First pregnancy prior to age 20
■ History of not having Pap tests
A Pap test and HPV test are the best ways to diagnose an HPV infection. Early detection is key.
If a woman has cervical cancer, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the main treatment choices. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be required.
According to the American Cancer Society, the HPV vaccine is generally covered by insurance but can cost about $130 per shot, for those without coverage.
While this vaccine is relatively new, early studies show it to be 100 percent effective in the prevention of transmission. It will take several decades to see if it prevents transmission for a lifetime.
The New York Times. Health/Science. Fewer Young Women Complete HPV Vaccine. Web. Monday, May 7, 2012. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/fewer-young-women-complete-hpv-...
EmpowHER.com. Cervical Cancer. Web. Monday, May 7, 2012.
American Cancer Society. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, and HPV Vaccines -- Frequently Asked Questions. Web. Monday, May 7, 2012. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/InfectiousAge...
Reviewed May 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith