HPV Vaccines to Prevent Cervical Cancer: All You Need to Know
Cervical cancer is mostly associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection that can be transmitted sexually via vaginal or oral or anal exposure and also through the skin to skin contact. Cervical cancer is increasing worldwide and can be reduced just by administering the HPV vaccine.
In India, the peak age of cervical cancer incidents is 55-59 years. Current data from the National Cancer Registry Program (NCRP) indicates that the most common sites of cancer among women are breasts and the cervix.
The HPV vaccine is directed towards the prevention of cervical cancer and hence the vaccine should be administered at the age of 9-45 years, preferably before the sexual encounter.
Three HPV vaccines available globally
Bivalent, quadrivalent and 9-valent.
- The bivalent HPV vaccine is given to girls and young women from 9 to 45 yrs to prevent cervical cancer, caused by HPV strains 16 and 18. The vaccine can be administered even if the patient is tested positive for HPV or had an abnormal pap smear in the past.
- The quadrivalent HPV Vaccine protects against an infection caused by the HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. 16 & 18 strains are responsible for 70-80 % of cervical cancers and 6 & 11 are responsible for at least 90% of genital warts. The vaccine can be administered even if the patient is tested positive for an HPV test or had an abnormal pap smear in the past. Vaccine demonstrates 98-100% protection against cervical cancer, vulvar vaginal cancer and genital warts. Also, vaccines can be given immediately after the delivery at the time of discharge or at the time of first follow up.
- HPV 9-valent vaccine is used for girls and young women from ages 9 to 26 yrs to prevent cervical/vaginal/vulvar cancers anal cancers and genital warts caused by 9 types of HPV strains. HPV 9-valent vaccine is administered even in boys to prevent penile cancers.
Dosage Schedule for HPV
- HPV vaccine should be given between 9-45 years of age, preferably before sexual experiences.
- In the age of 9-14 yrs, 2 doses with a gap of 6 months. (0 and 6 months)
- At the age of 15-45 yrs, 3 doses are to be given in the interval of 0,2 and 6 months.
- HPV Vaccine can be given as a postpartum vaccine in the interval of 0,1 and 4 months.
The HPV vaccine can be given as a catchup vaccine also to those who have missed their vaccination at a young age. Recommended age group 9-45 yrs.
The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women and for people who are severely ill. It is advised to use a condom when having sex. Pap smear is recommended at regular intervals or as advised by the doctor.
Certain common symptoms of cervical cancer are pelvic pain, bleeding after vaginal sex, in between periods, after menopause and painful sex.
Factors that can increase the risk for contracting the HPV virus when the individual is not vaccinated
- Having unprotected sex
- Multiple sexual partners
- Contact with contagious wounds
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Regular intake of unhealthy food
- Usage of contraceptives for long term
- Family history of Cervical cancer
The risk of cervical cancer can be minimized with regular screening and vaccination. The chances for a better outcome of cervical cancer is early detection and timely treatment.
- HPV infection, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hpv-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20351596
- HPV Vaccines, WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/hpv-vaccines-human-papillomavirus
- Everything you Need to Know About Human Papillomavirus Infection, Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/human-papillomavirus-infection