All you need to know about vaccines against cervical cancer

There are numerous forms of vaccines given to children to prevent numerous diseases. These include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, MMR and DaPt. However, did you know there vaccines which treat sexually transmitted diseases as well? Here is all you need to know about vaccines which are supposed to prevent cervix cancer…

Cervix cancer and HPV

There is a virus known as the human papillomavirus. It has been agreed by experts that nearly 99% of cervical cancer is caused by a certain types of high risk HPVs. In fact, types 16 and 18 together are responsible for nearly 70% of all cervical cancer.

Types of HPV vaccines

There are two main types of HPV vaccines. One is known as Gardasil and the other is known as Cervarix. The main difference between these two vaccines is that cervarix protects against only types 16 and 18 of HPV. However, Gardasil also protects against HPV types 6 and 11.

What are types 6 and 11 HPV and what are genital warts?

Types 6 and 11 of HPV cause a condition known as genital warts. Genital warts are a type of condition which is very hard to diagnose. This is because genital warts have a variety of appearance. They can be red or flesh-colored, and they can be flat or cauliflower shaped. They can even be on the thigh, cervix or groin. The time they appear in after contraction of HPV also varies. They can come several weeks after HPV sets in or several months after depending on what type of HPV is contracted. There are more than hundred types of HPV.

Who should get Gardasil?

Gardasil should ideally be given to girls aged between 11 and 12. However, the age range for which Gardasil can be given varies from 9 years of age all the way to 26 years of age. Boys can also get Gardasil as even though they cannot get cervical cancer, they can get anal cancer or genital warts. However, even they have to be in between 9 and 26 years of age to get one of these.

When should Cervarix be given?

Cervarix should be given to females in between 10 to 25 years of age and only to females. However, there have been reports of people fainting after taking cervarix which is why Gardasil is preferred over cervarix.

Limitations

Both vaccines have their limitations besides the fact that cervarix causes spells of fainting. Firstly, neither of them is a cure for cervical cancer, and only protects women for up to five years after the vaccine is taken. Secondly, not all forms of HPV and not even all forms of HPV which cause cervical cancer can be protected against using these vaccines.

Facts about HPV

A condom does not protect people from HPV as HPV can affect parts of the skin not covered by a condom. HPV affects about 50% of people who have had sex at some point in their life. However, sometimes there are no symptoms of cervical cancer such as genital warts and the HPV goes away on its own.

Finally, do consult your doctor about whether you should take vaccines which prevent HPV or not well in advance of you getting the symptoms of cervical cancer as then nothing can be done. Ideally, girls should get it around 9 or 10 years of age.

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