Should I take HPV vaccine for preventing Cervical Cancer?

Cynthia, my secretary, said that her aunt aged 54 was advised by a gynaecologist to take the HPV vaccine for preventing Cervical Cancer.  It is quite tempting to opt for any technique to prevent cancer and rightly so.

Yes, Cervical Cancer is caused by six strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This has won Nobel prize for Prof . Zur Hausen.

zur hausen

The vaccine contains recombinant DNA of 2 or 4 of such virus strains.  The IMPORTANT FACT is  the vaccine is recommended to be given before the sexually active age i.e preteens aged 11-12. Certainly not after 25.  This also created a lot of controversy in India as this was actually tested in rural population where none had knowledge of Cervical Cancer nor did they benefit from the vaccine.

What are the basic facts of Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer, worldwide, even before the advent of the vaccine, started falling and this was evident as in most of the developed world.  Cervical Cancer has gone down significantly from No.2-3 position in many countries and is mainly the problem of eastern and northern Africa and parts of developing world. .

Why did this happen when they were not even vaccinated?  Even a pap smear screening was not implemented in many countries like India.  But in the urban population, even in India, Cervical Cancer started coming down.  The simple reason is that Cervical cancer is largely related to a number of children, early marriage and most importantly the personal hygiene of women.  As the lifestyle has changed, personal hygiene improved. Number of children are limited to 1 or 2 and the age at marriage has progressively increased.  So, social dynamics and personal hygiene  reduced the incidence of Cervical Cancer.

More facts on HPV vaccination

  • Some side effects of headache and fever are reported. In Japan more serious effects like persistent body aches, joint pains made the government suspend promotion of vaccine. India also has adopted a cautious approach.
  • The vaccine would not protect once there is infection and so has to be given early.
  • The cost is around 300 USD for 3 doses and in those highrisk populations, it would never be affordable.
  • The risk of cervical cancer is reduced by 43% and screening by pap smear is still recommended.
  • Highrisk individuals include homosexuals, HIV positive and immuno compromised patients

Summary

Readers of this blog are NOT at risk.

They are healthy, mostly over 15 and definitely conscious about hygiene.

So don’t panic if some one advises HPV vaccination for you.

You can carefully consider for young girls.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html

http://globocan.iarc.fr/factsheets/cancers/cervix.asp

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4 thoughts on “Should I take HPV vaccine for preventing Cervical Cancer?

  1. Excellent Information . This information is especially important for the group of patients I deal with, I have adolescents and young adults survivors of childhood cancer . During their follow up I`m expected to deal with their anxieties and answer their health related queries. Its important to provide these young adults the best information regarding their health so that they can lead a healthy productive life. Recently , I have lot of queries from parents and young girls on this vaccine and your blog provides excellent concise information on the topic. Thankyou.

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