Human Papilomavirus (HPV)

Heather Burcham - Died from HPV

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is spread through sexual contact. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and anyone who has sex or any type of intimate sexual contact can get HPV. However, most of the time HPV has no symptoms so people do not know they have it. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own; however, when HPV does not go away, it can lead to many serious consequences in both men and women including:

  • Cervical cancer

  • Vulvar cancer

  • Vaginal cancer

  • Anal cancer

  • Penile cancer

  • Genital warts

  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP),

  • Oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of the throat including the base of the tongue and tonsils)

Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery.

The Statistics
Around 79 million people in the U.S. have already gotten HPV and about 14 million new infections occur every year. HPV is thought to cause more than 90% of the anal and cervical cancers, nearly 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60% of penile cancers. Recent studies suggest that 70% percent of cancers of the oropharynx might be linked to HPV.

The Vaccine
HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccines help protect both girls and boys from HPV infection and cancer caused by HPV. For the best protection, two doses of the vaccine are needed and should be given to adolescent girls and boys beginning at 11 or 12 years of age. If possible, HPV vaccines should be given to preteens and teens BEFORE they become sexually active. Teens and young adults who did not get the HPV vaccine when they were younger should get it now. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21. The vaccine is recommended for gay and bisexual young men, and also for young men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26, if they did not get HPV vaccine when they were younger. The HPV vaccine can be given to boys and girls as early as 9 years old.

No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination. All three HPV vaccines approved for use in the U.S.– Gardasil 9, Gardasil, and Cervarix – are safe, effective, and recommended by CDC. Many studies have looked at the safety of HPV vaccines in the United States. An overview of these studies can be found on the CDC website. As with all vaccines, the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully.

Low HPV vaccination rates are leaving another generation of boys and girls vulnerable to devastating HPV cancers. Vaccination could prevent most of these cancers. The CDC is looking to healthcare providers to make a strong recommendation for HPV vaccination when kids are 11 and 12 years old. To assist them, the CDC created a number of resources for healthcare providers, including tips for speaking with parents about HPV vaccination and patient handouts.

Use of a 2-Dose Schedule for Human Papillomavirus Vaccination — Updated Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

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