There is a bit on controversy about the HPV vaccine—who should get it and if it’s safe. The vaccine was developed to help fight the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease. HPV is also known to cause cervical cancer.
There are more than 100 different types of known HPV. Most cases of HPV clear up on their own within two years, and present no symptoms. Some types of HPV cause genital warts. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same ones that cause cervical cancer.
If you are curious about the HPV vaccine, here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- How do people get HPV?? HPV is passed through genital contact, like vaginal, oral, or anal sex, and genital-to-genital rubbing. It doesn’t matter if you are with a same sex partner or a partner of the opposite sex, you could get HPV. Condoms can help guard against HPV, but it’s good to remember that HPV is passed through any sexual activity or genital contact, so if you’re sexually active, you should guard yourself from it if you or your partner has not been tested for HPV.
- How does HPV turn into genital warts and cancer? HPV can make normal skin cells of infected skin turn into abnormal cells. There are no symptoms of abnormal cells. If the body fights HPV, the cells can turn back into normal cells. If the body doesn’t effectively fight HPV, the abnormal cells can turn into cancer. Warts can appear weeks or months after HPV contact, and cancer can develop years after getting HPV.
- How can I know if I have HPV? Women, especially if sexually active, should get a Pap smear which tests for abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, your doctor can treat it to get rid of the cells, or perform a biopsy to make sure it’s not cancer. If found early, most abnormal cells and cervical cancer can be treated.
- How can I prevent HPV? Get the vaccine. There are two currently on the market, Gardasil and Cervarix. Ask your doctor for more information. The vaccination is particularly recommended for girls who are not sexually active yet. The vaccination is administered in three doses. Condoms can help prevent the transmission of HPV, but as mentioned before, HPV can be passed in any type of genital contact, so only a vaccine can protect you from the most dangerous types. It also helps to be in a faithful relationship with one partner, although being in a monogamous relationship doesn’t always mean you won’t get HPV.
- Is the HPV vaccine safe? The vaccine was licensed as safe, and before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it underwent extensive testing in girls and women aged 9-26 years old. Most common discomfort reports following vaccination were for pain or swelling at the injection site.
This information is not meant to be a replacement for talking with your doctor. Talk with your doctors to get the full picture for your particular case.
www.mayoclinic.com HPV Infection
www.cdc.gov HPV Vaccination
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Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.