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Health officials urge vaccine to protect from cervical cancers

Posted 16 January 2020 at 9:57 am

Press Release, Public Health Departments in Orleans and Genesee counties

The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer develops in the cells of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus).

Most cervical cancers are related to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that infects teens and adults. It is so common that about 14 million males and females become infected with HPV each year.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV infection can cause vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat (oropharynx), and genital warts in both men and women.

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. It is most commonly spread by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

The HPV vaccine provides safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against cancers caused by the HPV infection.

“Children who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of the HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart,” explains Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans Counties. “Getting vaccinated on time protects preteens long before ever being exposed to the virus.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some children may need three doses of the HPV vaccine. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will need a third dose for best protection. Also, children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over 6 months.1

HPV vaccination provides the most benefit when given before a person is exposed to any HPV. That’s why the CDC recommends HPV vaccination at ages 11-12. The HPV vaccine is also recommended through age 26 for everyone who did not get vaccinated when they were younger. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, to include women and men 27-45 years of age. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated today.

In addition to receiving the HPV vaccine, the American Cancer Society recommends that women should also get screened regularly. Beginning at age 21, women should receive a Pap test every 3 years. Starting at age 30, women have three options available for screening3:

• A Pap test alone every three years

• An HPV test alone, every five years

• Co-testing with a Pap and HPV test, every five years

Depending on the results of the Pap and/or HPV tests, healthcare providers may recommend additional screening or procedures. Talk to your healthcare provider about screening options that are right for you.

If you are over the age of 40 and do not have health insurance, the Cancer Services Program (CSP) can help men and women receive preventative cancer screenings. The CSP provides breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings and diagnostic services at no cost. For more information, please contact your local CSP at 716-278-4898.

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