Cervical cancer and HPV: How getting vaccinated can save you
You probably know all the reasons why you should use protection while having sex. From an unwanted pregnancy to definitely uninvited STDs—using a condom can protect you from a slew of untoward incidents.
Today, we’d like to draw your attention to one such tragedy might befall you if you aren’t careful. No, this is not a lecture on HIV AIDS. Rather, we’re talking about HPV or human papilloma virus.
Usually harmless, this common sexually-transmitted infection can either show no symptoms or result in genital warts. What’s worse? It can give you cervical cancer.
Now we’re sure you’ve heard about this sexually-transmitted “cancer” before—either through social media or through your gynae who might have recommended a vaccine to protect you from cervical cancer.
Are vaccines against HPV actually helpful?
Unlike many STDs, HPV is not easy to detect as it presents no symptoms. Only regular checkups with a gynecologist can help in its detection. But that’s not the real cause of concern. Once you’re infected, there is no cure for HPV or cervical cancer—which is why vaccines are a must to prevent infections in the first place.
In fact, a study published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that 92% of cancers caused by HPV could be prevented through vaccination, adding that boosting immunization coverage was a key priority.
Dr Anu Vij, obstetrics and gynecologist at Motherhood hospital, Kharghar (Navi Mumbai) suggests that girls should ideally get vaccinated at puberty under the guidance of their gynaecologist.
But what do these vaccines really do?
There are two variants of vaccines available in the market—one that prevents the possibility of cervical cancer, and another which prevents the possibility of both cervical cancer and genital warts from incubating in your body.
Additionally, these vaccines can also protect from contracting other HPV-caused cancers like oral, larynx, or anal.
When can you get vaccinated?
Well, in case you weren’t vaccinated at puberty like doctors suggest, then getting injections before you become sexually active is the best way to go, suggests Dr Vij. However, certain studies suggest that you can get vaccinated till the age of 45—irrespective of whether you are sexually active or not. Check with your gynaecologist whether or not you should get vaccinated for HPV.
Cervical cancer is one of the biggest causes of death (due to cancer) in women, globally. But the good news is that according to a Lancet study, cervical cancer could be eliminated as a public health problem in India within the next 60 years.
Karen Canfell from the Cancer Council New South Wales mentioned in the study that, “Despite the enormity of the problem, our findings suggest that global elimination is within reach with tools that are already available, provided that both high coverages of HPV vaccination and cervical screening can be achieved.”
So, let’s turn this study be a reality by fighting cancer – because we can.