The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is extremely common—about one in four people contract HPV, and about 14 million new cases occur each year. HPV can affect the cervix, vagina or vulva (pubic area). Most people show no symptoms of HPV, and many cases disappear on their own in a couple of years. Most others respond to treatment. Some cases of HPV persist, however, and can lead to cancer of the areas affected. Every year, HPV causes more than 30,000 cancer cases in women and men in the United States. However, a simple vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of these cancer cases.
Through this vaccine, you can significantly prevent cervical cancer if you get it before HPV exposure. The Gardisil® vaccine can prevent most HPV-related cancers when given to young adolescents at the ages of 11 or 12. The vaccine requires two doses, about six to 12 months apart. Women who didn’t get the vaccine at these ages can still benefit from the vaccine up to age 45. If you are 14 or older, you will need a series of three immunizations within six months. The Gardisil vaccine is available at Women First and through most pediatricians. For more information on the HPV vaccine, see the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) web site.