Supercharge Your Kid’s Cancer Fighting Power
Jan 09, 2019
January is cervical cancer awareness month and according to the CDC, cervical cancer is just the tip of the iceberg. Every year in the United States, there are nearly 300,000 cases of high-grade cervical lesions, which may require invasive testing and treatment. Even with screening, HPV causes 10,800 cases of cervical cancer annually.
HPV also causes cancers of the vagina and vulva in women; cancers of the penis in men; and cancers of the anus and oropharynx (back of the throat) in men and women. In total, HPV causes 33,700 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S. HPV vaccination could prevent most of these cases – approximately 31,200 – from ever developing.
While doctors routinely screen for cervical cancer, there are no recommended cancer screening tests for the other types of cancers caused by HPV infections. These cancers may not be detected until they cause health problems.
To better inform our readers about the importance of HPV vaccination to help prevent against six types of cancer, Shot of Prevention is re-posting one of our most visited posts below.
Are You the Parent of an 11- or 12-Year-Old?
Make sure your preteen gets the three vaccines that protect against whooping cough (Tdap), meningococcal disease (MenACWY) and HPV cancers (HPV).
We can reduce the risk of our children getting certain cancers later in life by helping them make healthy choices now, including eating a healthy diet, staying away from tobacco, wearing sunscreen and being physically active. We can also help prevent most HPV cancers with just two shots of the HPV vaccine.
HPV vaccination helps prevent six types of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) in both men and women, and HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers from ever developing.
HPV is a Common Virus that Infects Teens and Adults
HPV is so common that most people will get the virus at some point in their lives. About 14 million people in the U.S., including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV is passed during intimate sexual contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person who has the virus. And the virus can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Most HPV infections go away on their own without lasting health problems. However, there is no way to know which infections will turn into cancer. That is why it is important that all children get vaccinated against HPV.
Vaccines are for Prevention, Not Treatment
Since vaccines are for prevention, not treatment, they only work if given BEFORE coming in contact with a virus. That’s why you want to get your child vaccinated against HPV at 11 or 12 years old. In addition, scientific studies have shown that children have the best immune response to the vaccine at these ages. The HPV vaccine is given as a series of two shots, and the series should be completed by age 13.
HPV Vaccines Are Continuously Monitored for Safety
Like all vaccines recommended in the U.S., HPV vaccines are monitored on an ongoing basis to make sure they remain safe and effective. With approximately 100 million doses of HPV vaccine distributed so far in the U.S., data continues to show that HPV vaccines are safe, effective and give long-lasting protection.
Make sure to ask your preteen’s health care provider about the HPV vaccine at his/her next appointment.
Are HPV vaccines safe?
Yes, numerous research studies have been conducted to make sure HPV vaccines are safe, both before and after the vaccines were licensed. Before the three HPV vaccines were licensed for use in the U.S. by the FDA, each went through years of testing in thousands of people through clinical trials. After being licensed, the CDC and FDA have continued to monitor the safety of the HPV vaccines through the four surveillance systems in the U.S. Over 100 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed in the U.S. so far and HPV vaccines continue to have a good safety record.
Like any vaccine or medicine, HPV vaccines can cause side effects, but the most common side effects are mild. They include pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given; dizziness; fainting; nausea; and headache. The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh any potential risk of side effects.
Does the HPV vaccine contain dangerous ingredients?
No, the HPV vaccine does NOT contain harmful ingredients. While HPV vaccines, like some other vaccines, do contain a small amount of aluminum in order to boost the body’s immune response to the vaccine, it’s important to realize that people are actually exposed to aluminum every day. Aluminum is commonly found in numerous food and beverages, water, infant formula and even breast milk. Aluminum-containing vaccines have been used for decades and have been given to more than 1 billion people without problems. The quantities of aluminum present in vaccines are low and are regulated by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER). Learn more about the use of aluminum and other ingredients in vaccines.
If I vaccinate my preteen now, won’t the vaccine wear off by the time he/she goes to college?
No, if you vaccinate your child at age 11 or 12, he or she should continue to be protected against HPV through college. Studies continue to monitor how long the vaccine protects against HPV infections, and protection has been shown to last at least 10 years with no signs of the protection weakening.
If I give my preteen the HPV vaccine, won’t it be like giving them permission to start having sex?
No, there have actually been scientific studies that have looked at this issue, and they show that there is no correlation between receiving the HPV vaccine and increased rates of, or earlier engagement in, sexual activity.
My child is not sexually active. Why should I vaccinate him/her against HPV now?
Preteens should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity. Even if your child delays sexual activity until marriage, or only has one partner in the future, he or she could still be exposed to HPV if his/her partner has been exposed to HPV. Studies have shown that the HPV vaccine is most effective in preventing the virus, and therefore HPV cancers, when given at age 11 or 12.
Can HPV vaccination cause infertility?
No, there is no evidence that HPV vaccination causes fertility or reproductive problems. In fact, getting HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, can help ensure a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have healthy babies. For example, a woman who develops cervical cancer later in life due to HPV infection may require serious treatments that could leave her unable to have children. It’s also possible that treatment for cervical pre-cancer could put a woman at risk for problems with her cervix, which could cause preterm delivery or other problems. HPV vaccination can help prevent these complications.
Learn more about HPV vaccination at vaccinateyourfamily.org
This guest post was written in May 2020 by VYF Board Member Mary Koslap-Petraco DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP, an adjunct clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Nursing and a pediatric nurse...
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