Clinical, Opinions

Cervical cancer and HPV: How vaccines can save you

KARACHI: From an unwanted pregnancy to uninvited STDs—protected sex can safeguard you from a slew of untoward incidents. One such unfortunate occurrence is contracting HPV or human papillomavirus.

HPV, although usually harmless, is a common sexually transmitted infection that can either show no symptoms or result in genital warts. What is a pressing concern is that HPV can give you cervical cancer.

Are vaccines against HPV helpful?

Unlike many STDs, HPV is not easy to detect as it presents no symptoms. Only regular checkups with a gynecologist can help in its detection. However, that is not the real cause of concern. Once you are infected, there is no cure for HPV or cervical cancer—which is why vaccines are necessary to prevent infections in the first place.

A study published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that 92% of cancers caused by HPV could be prevented through vaccination, adding that boosting immunization coverage was a key priority.

Dr Anu Vij, obstetrics and gynecologist at Motherhood hospital, Kharghar (Navi Mumbai), suggests that girls should ideally get vaccinated at puberty under the guidance of their gynaecologist.

What do these vaccines do?

There are two variants of vaccines available in the market—one that prevents the possibility of cervical cancer, and another which preclude the possibility of both cervical cancer and genital warts from incubating in your body.

Additionally, these vaccines can also protect from contracting other HPV-caused cancers like oral, larynx, or anal.

When can you get vaccinated?

Well, in case you were not vaccinated at puberty as doctors suggest, then getting injections before you become sexually active is the best way to go, suggests Dr Vij. However, certain studies indicate that you can get vaccinated until the age of 45—irrespective of whether you are sexually active or not. Check with your gynaecologist whether or not you should get vaccinated for HPV.

September 6, 2019

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