By Andrea Flood, MPH, Public Health Educator
January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month. The CDC and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition promote the protection against cervical cancer through vaccination and regular screening. Each year, approximately 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. More than 9 of every 10 cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus, otherwise referred to as HPV. HPV is a common virus that is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact and sexual activity. Most HPV infections resolve on their own within two years. However, sometimes HPV can last longer and can lead to certain types of cancers.
Why is HPV vaccination important?
HPV infections can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and the back of the throat. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in the United States. HPV infection can also cause genital warts. Of the various HPV causing cancers, not all are easy to screen for. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV, do not know they are infected. What’s the good news? The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV and cancer-causing infections and precancers! The vaccine prevents infection from HPV that can lead to cancer and cause genital warts. Cervical cancer can also be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care. Women should start getting regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21.
Who should receive the vaccine?
The Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP) recommends that both males and females should receive the HPV vaccine. It is routinely recommended that children receive the vaccine when they are preteens at 11-12 years of age. The ACIP recommends catch-up HPV vaccination for all persons through age 26. HPV vaccination can also be beneficial for some adults ages 27 through 45 years of age who have not already been vaccinated. In this age range discuss your risk of HPV with your doctor and decide together if it is beneficial for you.
Research shows the HPV vaccine is safe and effective
The HPV vaccine has gone through years of extensive safety testing before being approved and licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA licenses vaccines only if they are proven to be safe, effective, and the benefits to vaccination outweigh the risks. Since the vaccine was approved, over 120 million doses of the vaccine have been provided and the data continues to support the vaccine as safe and effective.
Where can I get an HPV vaccine in Onondaga County?
Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy. Speak with your primary care provider to see if they offer the HPV vaccine. Call Onondaga County Immunization Clinic for availability. To learn more contact Onondaga County Health Department at (315) 435-2000.