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Cervical Cancer and HPV: What’s the Connection?
What is Cervical Cancer?
• Cervical cancer refers to a cancer that originates in the cervix: part of a woman's reproductive system that connects the vagina to the upper part of the uterus.
Who Can Get Cervical Cancer?
• While any woman can get cervical cancer, it is primarily associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), causes over 90% of cases of cervical cancer.
What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
• HPV is a sexually transmitted disease - the most common one in the United States, in fact. The CDC estimates that almost all sexually active people without vaccination will have HPV at some point in their lives.
What Can Happen if I Get HPV?
• Many HPV infections do go away on their own within two years, but some can last longer, and cause cancers later in life. In women, HPV can cause cancers of not only the cervix, but also the vagina and vulva, and in men, it can cause cancer of the penis. HPV can also cause cancers of the anus and back of the throat in both women and men.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of HPV and Cancer?
• The good news is that there is a vaccine to prevent HPV infection, and thus, reduce risk of cancers caused by HPV.
Who Can Get the HPV Vaccine?
• The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteens and young adults through age 26. The series consists of two doses if started before age 15, and three doses if started after. The first dose is typically given at ages 11 and 12, although it can be given as early as age 9.
Why Is the Vaccine Recommended for Pre-teens?
• Vaccines expose your body to a very small amount of virus, triggering an immune response to prevent future illness. Vaccines are most effective when they are given before a person is exposed to the actual disease.
Is the HPV Vaccine Safe?
• According to the CDC, over 12 years of research and monitoring have indicated that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, and like any vaccine, it is continually monitored to ensure that it remains so.
• Talk to your healthcare provider if you think that the HPV vaccine may be indicated for you or your child. Remember, HPV vaccination is cancer prevention!
Find out more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about cervical cancer and HPV: