Decades ago, cervical cancer was among the most common causes of cancer death for women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. However, developments in cervical cancer screening, including the Pap test, HPV testing, and HPV vaccination, have dramatically decreased cervical cancer cases and deaths.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomaviruses (HPV). In addition to causing cervical cancer, HPV infection can lead to cancers of the vagina, penis, anus, throat/tongue, and vulva.
At Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology, our team of care providers is devoted to helping our patients reduce their risk of all types of health conditions, including cancers related to HPV. That's why we recommend the HPV vaccine for many – but not all – of our patients.
Should you have an HPV vaccine? Read on to learn about whether this preventive treatment would make sense for you.
About the HPV vaccine
There are about 150 types of HPV. These viruses spread sexually, through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Only certain types of HPV are believed to be linked to cancer.
HPV vaccines offer excellent protection from cancer by safeguarding you from the types of HPV that may cause cancer. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers.
Full HPV vaccination requires two or three shots, depending on your age.
The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. In addition to offering protection from certain types of cancer, it can also protect people from genital warts.
Who should be vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that the following individuals receive HPV vaccination:
Pre-teens: All girls and boys ages 11-12 should be vaccinated. This helps prevent HPV infections that could lead to the development of HPV-related cancer when they get older.
You may think that a preteen is too young to receive a vaccination for a sexually transmitted infection. However, it is best for youths to have their HPV vaccines taken care of well before they begin having sex.
Teens and young adults: Any teens or young adults under age 26 should be vaccinated if they didn't receive two HPV shots as preteens.
Who should not be vaccinated?
Generally, HPV shots are not recommended for adults over age 26. However, some women and men do choose to have the vaccine if they have a high risk of exposure to HPV infection. Adults with a weakened immune system may also opt to be vaccinated.
To determine your risk, we talk with you about your sexual practices, your overall health, and any health conditions you may have that weaken your immune system. Then we make a personalized recommendation based on your individual risk and past exposure to HPV.
We don’t routinely offer HPV vaccines to adults over age 26 because by that age, most sexually active adults have already been exposed to HPV.
Protecting your health
Our providers are committed to optimizing your overall health and your sexual health. Reach out to us if you would like to schedule your HPV vaccine, cervical cancer testing, a yearly well-woman exam, or any other type of OB/GYN care.
Schedule an appointment with us by calling our office in Albany, New York, or using our convenient contact form.