Getting the HPV Vaccine Can Save Your (Or Your Child’s) Life
The HPV Vaccine Reduces Cervical Cancer
Did you know that receiving the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by nearly 90 percent? Cancer Research UK was quick to describe these recent findings as “historic.”
That’s because cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women around the world. Every year, more than 300,000 women lose their lives to cervical cancer. Since 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, researchers believe that the HPV vaccine will virtually eradicate cervical cancer in the future.
The new study, published in the Lancet, followed girls who received the HPV vaccine in 2008 in England. Now in their 20s, these girls showed a reduction in both pre-cancerous growths and an 87 percent reduction in cervical cancer. Overall, the study estimates that the HPV vaccine program prevented 450 cancers and 17,200 pre-cancers.
Eradicating Cervical Cancer Around the World With HPV Vaccines
To help prevent an HPV infection, more than 100 countries around the world have begun using the vaccine. This is part of the World Health Organization’s cervical cancer elimination initiative. Their goal is to eliminate cervical cancer by helping all countries around the world reach and maintain an incidence rate of below four per 100,000 women. This lofty goal is reachable thanks to the HPV vaccine.
How can we eradicate cervical cancer? The World Health Organization outlines three key pillars:
- Vaccinate 90 percent of girls with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15
- Screen 70 percent of women by the age of 35 and again at 45
- Treat 90 percent of women with pre-cancer
Screening for Cervical Cancer is Still Important
Even if you get the HPV vaccine, it is still important to attend cervical screening. While the vaccine drastically reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer, it does not protect against all types of HPV. Once women reach the age of 25, it is important to have regular cervical smears or Pap tests. You can receive this screening at your local OBGYN, Planned Parenthood, or state health department.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women receive their first Pap test by the age of 21 and every 3 years afterward.
If your Pap test is abnormal, your doctor may order further tests, such as a cervical biopsy or colposcopy.
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