HPV Vaccination – Protection against Cervical and Other Cancers

May 01, 2024

What is HPV? - HPV Vaccination

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that spreads through sexual activity. There are approximately 40 different strains of this virus and they cause a variety of infections leading to medical conditions that can range from minor to the most serious, including fatalities. HPV vaccination is the best way to protect against these infections.

What Is HPV?

HPV is common and prevalent throughout the world. In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of sexually active people will have an HPV infection at some stage in their lives. In most cases, the human immune system can deal with these infections. There are very few symptoms (or the symptoms could be completely absent) and the infected person recovers without even being aware of having had the infection. However, that does not mean that HPV is something that can be ignored. In some cases, the infection can remain in the body and with time develop into serious and even life-threatening ailments such as:

  • Genital warts
  • Oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the throat)
  • Cervical cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Penile cancer

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that spreads through skin-to-skin contact. While the normal safe sex precautions can help reduce the possibility of getting infected, the best protection is by HPV vaccination.

What Does the HPV Vaccine Do?

The HPV vaccine does not contain a mutated or modified form of the virus. It contains a simulation of the virus that stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight HPV. It is important to note that the HPV vaccine is not a treatment for the diseases caused by an HPV infection. Once a person has been exposed to a particular strain of the virus, the vaccine cannot help in the healing or recovery process. However, the vaccine does offer protection against strains of the virus that a person has not been exposed to previously. This includes both the high-risk and low-risk strains. The high-risk strains can lead to various types of cancer. The low-risk strains do not result in cancer  but can cause painful and embarrassing conditions such as genital warts.

Also Read: Differences between Normal and Cancer Cells

Who Should Get the Vaccine?

It is recommended that the vaccine be given to children at a young age. The objective is to provide children with the immunity that the vaccine offers before they become sexually active. Society is changing and social norms that were prevalent a generation ago may not be so widespread now. Even children from the most conservative of backgrounds are at risk of inadvertent infection. Studies in various countries show that administering the vaccine does not result in an increase in adolescent sexual activity so the HPV vaccine should be viewed as just another preventive vaccination that a child receives.

In the case of adults who have not received the HPV vaccination in childhood, it is an essential safety precaution throughout sexually active life. The older a person is, the greater the possibility of an infection becoming a serious medical condition.

What about Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a condition associated with the growth of mutated cells in a woman’s cervix. The tapered end of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina is the cervix. Cervical cancer is one of the most common forms of female cancer.

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse or between periods.
  • Vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor.
  • Heavier than usual and more prolonged menstrual bleeding.
  • Pelvic pain that may become worse during intercourse.

Regular gynecological examinations are advised to detect cervical cancer at an early stage so that treatment can be started. The sooner the treatment begins, the better the possibilities of recovery. That said, it must be noted that HPV is the cause of almost all types of cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine is the only effective way of preventing an infection that could turn into cancer.

Also Read: Understanding Cancer – The First Step In Dealing With It

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

The vaccine is safe and side-effects, if any, are limited to temporary soreness or slight swelling at the vaccination site. In a few cases, short-term fatigue or nausea may occur. However, there are various illnesses a person may have suffered from that could increase the risk of developing side-effects. That is why it is important to provide the doctor with medical history before receiving the HPV vaccination.

Vaccination is a safe and highly effective form of protection from the various diseases caused by the HPV virus including cervical cancer. Many people hesitate to talk about sexually transmitted infections, even to their doctors. It must be kept in mind that STIs are the same as other infections, both in terms of how common they are and the possibility of serious consequences. The peace of mind that comes from the protection that the vaccine offers, for both the sexually active and for parents who have provided their children with an additional level of protection from infections, is enormous. A multispecialty hospital is the best place to go to for an HPV vaccination or to obtain more information on the benefits the vaccine offers.

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