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HPV vaccine can potentially protect children from cervical cancer

Your Health Matters

While most parents are quite familiar with the vaccination schedule of their children when they are very young, there is a vaccine recommended for pre-teens that can help prevent cancer.

Vaccination to protect both boys and girls from the human papillomavirus (HPV) is now included on the list of recommended shots between the ages of 11 and 12. The vaccine can be given to patients up to the age of 26 who did not receive the shots as pre-teens. It is administered in two to three doses during a six-month period depending on the age at initial vaccination.

“HPV infections are very common and while often spread through intimate contact, can also be spread through close skin-to-skin contact, even among younger children,” said Dr. Anand Budi, local pediatrician and associate chief medical officer at Meritus Health. “The vaccines helps in prevention of cancers caused by certain HPV types.”

There are now more than 200 types of HPV based on more recent science, and the most serious ones cause normal cells to become abnormal, then begin to reproduce at a higher rate. Cancer is caused when cells within the body begin to grow uncontrollably. Several types of HPV are responsible for the majority of HPV-caused cancers that account for approximately 5% of cancers worldwide.

“While not all HPV causes cancer, several types are directly connected to cervical cancer,” says Dr. Budi. “When found early, cervical cancer is highly treatable, but the HPV vaccine can protect our children before they are even exposed to the virus and potentially prevent certain cancers completely.”

Gardisil is the most common vaccine that protects against HPV and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by health care providers. Gardisil, which can be given to young girls and boys, has been shown to prevent several types of cancers in young men and women, as well as protect against the types of HPV that cause precancerous lesions and genital warts. Research shows that even those infected with one of the most common, high-risk HPV types can receive protection from this vaccine product against other types and re-exposure.

It is still important for young women to have routine cervical screenings in order to detect any cancer in its earliest forms even if they received the HPV vaccine as a pre-teen.

“Every year in the U.S., HPV causes about 36,000 cases of cancer in men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” says Dr. Budi. “A person can get HPV from someone who has the virus, even if that person shows no signs or symptoms. It’s extremely important that the HPV vaccine is given at a younger age, because it does provide that long-term protection.”

Meritus Health offers primary care, including pediatrics, at several of its outpatient practices. For more information on children’s vaccines and primary health care or to find a physician, visit MeritusHealth.com.

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