The HPV vaccine is a topic that comes up often during my conversations with women – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether you are a woman considering the vaccine for yourself, or a mom to a teenage or young child – the topic of HPV is one of the most important conversations we can have.
Here are a few of the reasons why:
HPV is a major health issue, and it’s deadly.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV – the human papilloma virus. An additional 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
Each year there are about 15,000 HPV-associated cancers in women the United States that may be prevented by vaccines, including cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. There are an estimated 7,000 HPV-associated cancers annually in the United States in men which could also be prevented by the vaccine.
HPV can be prevented.
Currently, the FDA has licensed two HPV vaccines. These vaccines are Cervarix and Gardasil. Both vaccines are effective against diseases caused by HPV types 16 and 18. HPV 16 and 18 cause most cervical cancers, as well as other HPV associated cancers. Only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) protects against HPV types 6 and 11, the types that cause most genital warts in females and males.
Both Cervarix and Gardasil require three doses over six months. The scheduling is lenient. If you miss a shot, you don’t have to restart the series.
It’s not just for girls.
Most boys are carriers of HPV. Besides exposing their sexual partners to the risk of contracting HPV, HPV can result in genital warts or throat cancer in males.
It’s important to note, though, that only one of the vaccines (Gardasil) is available for males.
The clock is ticking – if you wait too long, the vaccine won’t work.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend the vaccine for all girls and boys from ages 9-26. The vaccine is not available to women 27 or older.
Just because the vaccine is available to women through the age of 27, though, there are important reasons to not wait.
The best time to vaccinate boys and girls is before they are sexually active so they have not been exposed to the HPV virus. I especially like to have conversations about HPV and the vaccine with parents of younger girls and boys, because the vaccine is the most influential decision those parents can make to help eliminate HPV.
This is a conversation many doctors LOVE to have with patients.
It’s not uncommon for parents to be nervous about talking about HPV because it sounds controversial. One thing we want you to know, though, is that this is a conversation that your health care provider and your child’s pediatrician want to have with you. It is our goal as healthcare providers to help our patients and their families get the information they need to make the choice that’s right for them..
You will not be pressured to make a decision. This is your choice, but it does help to talk through any questions and concerns. If you decide you want the vaccine, it can be administered by a nurse.
Check with your insurance provider, because most insurance companies are starting to cover this vaccine.
In 20-30 years we hope to see the type of impact that the polio virus vaccine and the small pox vaccine have had on those diseases. The goal is to have everyone immunized so that no one gets HPV.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION:
Get the Facts about HPV and the HPV Vaccine
December 6, 2012
7PM – 8:30PM
Plymouth District Library
223 South Main St.
Plymouth, MI 48170
For more information about this free event, please call 734-936-8886.
This Ask-a-Doctor Health Seminar is sponsored by the U-M Women’s Health Program.
Dr. Samar Hassouneh is an OBGYN at the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. She sees patients in Ann Arbor and Livonia.
University of Michigan’s Women’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital is a leader women’s health care. Consistently ranked among the America’s top gynecology programs