Dr.N.S.VIMALATHITHAN

Consultant Surgical Oncologist & HIPEC Specialist

Chennai

Cervical cancer, mainly caused by Human Papilloma virus infection, is the leading cancer in Indian women and the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Unlike many other cancers, cervical cancer occurs early and strikes at the productive period of a woman’s life. Estimates suggest that more than 80% of the sexually active women acquire genital HPV by 50 years of age. Widespread immunization with the HPV vaccine could reduce the impact of cervical cancer worldwide. Though there are several methods of prevention of cervical cancer, prevention by vaccination is emerging as the most effective option

Here’s what you need to know about the HPV vaccine

WHAT IS MEANT BY HPV VACCINE? 

A vaccines is available to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV) types that cause most cervical cancers as well as some cancers of the anus, vulva (area around the opening of the vagina), vagina, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). The vaccine also prevents HPV types that cause most genital warts

What this HPV Virus generally causes?

Various strains of HPV spread through sexual contact and are associated with most cases of cervical cancer. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s.

Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers — like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva and oropharynx. Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts.

Why should my child get the HPV vaccine?

Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause several cancers. HPV infection can’t be treated, but a vaccine can prevent it. The best way to prevent HPV infection is to get vaccinated.

HPV vaccination can help prevent:

  • Cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women
  • Penile cancer in men
  • Throat cancers in men and women
  • Anal cancer in men and women
  • Genital warts in men and women

The HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of 6 different types of cancer. That is why it is important that all children get vaccinated against HPV.   

Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?

  • Routine HPV vaccination is recommended at 11 to 12 years. It can be administered starting at 9 years of age.
  • For adolescents and adults aged 13 to 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series.

What is dose schedule for this HPV vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends :

Individuals initiating the vaccine series before 15 years of age – Two doses of HPV vaccine should be given at 0 and at 6 to 12 months.

  • Individuals initiating the vaccine series at 15 years of age or older – Three doses of HPV vaccine should be given at 0, 1 to 2 (typically 2), and 6 months.

Who should not get the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine isn’t recommended for pregnant women or people who are moderately or severely ill. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies, including an allergy to yeast or latex.

Should girls and women be screened for cervical cancer before getting vaccinated?

Girls and women do not need to get an HPV test or Pap test to find out if they should get the vaccine.

Why is HPV vaccination only recommended for women through age 26?

HPV vaccination is not generally recommended for women over age 26 years.HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit because more people have already been exposed to the virus.

For women over age 26 years, the decision to vaccinate people in this age group should be made on an individual basis & the best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get routine cervical cancer screening, as recommended

Will sexually active females benefit from the vaccine?

As we said already, ideally females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV. Females who are sexually active may also benefit from vaccination, but they may get less benefit.

What does the vaccine not protect against?

  • The vaccine does not protect against all HPV types— so they will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. Since some cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer.
  • Also, the vaccine does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So, it will still be important for sexually active persons to lower their risk for other STIs.

How safe is the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine was studied in thousands of people around the world, and these studies showed vaccine is as safe and effective no serious safety concerns. Side effects reported in these studies were only mild, including pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea.

What vaccinated girls/women need to know: will girls/women who have been vaccinated still need cervical cancer screening?

Yes, vaccinated women will still need regular cervical cancer screening because the vaccine protects against most but not all HPV types that cause cervical cancer.

Routine screening for cervical cancer through regular Pap tests beginning at age 21 remains an essential part of a woman’s preventive health care

Also, women who got the vaccine after becoming sexually active may not get the full benefit of the vaccine if they had already been exposed to HPV.

What is our INDIAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS RECOMMENDATION?

  • The Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Immunization recommends offering HPV vaccine to all females who can afford the vaccine .

What is common Myth in our Indian people about this HPV vaccine?

  • One of the reasons the HPV vaccine is controversial is because it prevents a sexually transmitted infection, which leads some people to believe it’s inappropriate for children. But, the thing is, the vaccine works best if you get it long before you have sex. So it’s a good idea to get it when you’re young so you won’t have to worry about getting certain kinds of cancer later in life.
  • Studies show that the HPV vaccine doesn’t lead to people having more sex or sex at a younger age. So giving kids the HPV vaccine doesn’t encourage them to have sex. All it does is help protect them from genital warts and cancer in adulthood

Dr Vimalathithan, Best oncologist in Chennai says, The HPV vaccination is of public health importance. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer cause of death in the developing countries. The current estimates indicate 74,000 deaths annually in India, accounting to nearly 1/3rd of the global cervical cancer deaths. At any given time, about 6.6% of women in the general population are estimated to harbor cervical HPV infection

HPV vaccination is really needed for our developing countries like INDIA, as for primary prevention of cervical cancer . However, secondary prevention through periodic cervical cancer screening should be in place such as Pap smear and HPV DNA tests. HPV vaccination and regular cervical screening is the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer.

Dr Vimalathithan conveying that, these HPV vaccines should preferably be introduced to our parents as a cervical cancer-preventing vaccine and not as a vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection.