Cervical Cancer & HPV vaccine
HPV Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus (womb) that connect it to vagina (birth canal). This cancer is caused by a virus called Human papillomavirus ( HPV ). There are various strains of this virus. Only a few are capable of causing cancer
This virus is transmitted by sexual contact. Most sexually active women will get exposed to these viruses in their lifetime. However, our body's immune system fights against this virus and clears it. Only in some percentage of patients’ body is unable to clear it and the virus may persist in cervical cells for years. It is this persistent infection over time that may cause cancer.
Vaccines are now available against cancer-causing using strains of HPV. This vaccine increases body immunity to fight against HPV and helps clear it thus preventing cancer from occurring.
Early-stage cervical cancer is mostly asymptomatic. some of the early signs and symptoms include
Abnormal vaginal bleeding during intercourse, bleeding in between periods, or postmenstrual bleeding
Abnormal vaginal discharge which may or may not be foul smelling
Risk factors for cervical cancer
Multiple sexual partners:
Early sexual activity HPV infection
Weakened immune system: increases chances of persistent HPV and thus chance of developing cervical cancer
Prevention through vaccination:
How do HPV vaccines work?
HPV vaccines protect against precancerous lesions of the cervix in young women particularly those vaccinated between 11-26 years (or prior to exposure to HPV virus). This vaccine also gives protection against vulvar and vaginal and anal cancer and also noncancerous conditions like genital warts.
Recommendations for HPV vaccines?
The ACIP recommends that routine HPV vaccination be initiated for all children at age 11 or 12 years. However, vaccination can be started as early as age 9 years. Vaccination is also recommended for all people age 13 through 26 years who have not been vaccinated previously or who have not completed the vaccination series.
After 26 years to 45 years shared clinical decision to be made by patient and clinician regarding catch up vaccination
Ideally, HPV vaccine should be administered before potential exposure to HPV through sexual contact
How many doses to be given?
If vaccination is started before 15 years of age only 2 doses are recommended (0, 6-12 months). If vaccination is started after 15 years of age 3 doses (0, 1-2, 6 months) are recommended.
Side effects of the vaccine
Mild problems include pain, redness, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Fainting has been reported among adolescents who receive HPV vaccine (and other recommended vaccines as well). So it is recommended that the vaccine should be given in a sitting position and remain seated for 15–20 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
What can you do to protect yourself from cervical cancer if you're not in the recommended vaccine age group?
As HPV spreads through sexual contact to protect yourself from HPV, use a condom every time you have sex. In addition, avoid smoking. Smoking raises the risk of cervical cancer.
Additionally, screening can detect cervical cancer in the precancerous stage. so undergo regular screening after the age of 21 years.