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Should my teen get the HPV vaccination?

Posted February 04, 2019 by Robin Laskey, M.D. Summa Health Gynecologic Oncology

HPV blog

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus is identified by a number, known as its “type or strain.” Some of these viruses do nothing at all, some strains lead to genital warts while others can lead to serious types of cancer.

HPV is very common. In fact, at least 14 million people become infected each year. Some estimate at least 40 percent of Americans have at least one strain. The virus is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus, during vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV is so common that nearly all men and women come in contact with an HPV virus at some point in their lives.

In most cases (9 out of 10 infections), HPV disappears on its own. Since it rarely shows symptoms, however; more serious strains can go undetected for years.

What does HPV cause?

  • In certain strains, warts can appear in the genital area. They usually appear as a small bump or a group of bumps and grow into small or large cauliflower-shaped bumps. They can occur in cycles but there is no treatment to prevent outbreaks.
  • Certain HPV viruses can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women and penile cancer in men. It can also cause cancer of the oropharynx (throat) and anal cancer in both men and women.
  • The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancers.

What is the vaccine?

  • Gardasil, Gardasil 9 and Cervarix are the three HPV vaccines approved by the FDA. They all protect against HPV types 16 and 18 - the two strains responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer. Gardasil additionally protects against strains 6 and 11 - which cause 90 percent of HPV-related genital warts. Gardasil 9 additionally blocks five types of HPV viruses - 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 - that can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva or vagina in women and anus in both men and women.
  • The vaccine is given in a series of doses. The recommended age group, 9-14-year-olds, are given two shots, six months apart. Those ages 15 - 45 are given three separate shots, within seven months.

Why should you vaccinate?

  • Since the HPV vaccine was introduced more than 10 years ago, the strains that cause cancers and genital warts in teen girls have dropped 71 percent.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine provides close to 100 percent protection against cervical pre-cancers and genital warts.
  • The earlier you vaccinate your child, the better they are protected.
  • While all vaccines and medication can have side effects, most people report little to none. Those that do report mild pain, redness and/or swelling near the injection site, fever, headache, nausea or muscle pain.

If you have additional questions about vaccinating your teen against HPV, schedule an appointment with a Summa family physician by calling 800.237.8662.

Summa Health's primary care team is focused on coordinated care for our patients and long-term positive health. We offer comprehensive care for the whole family, from infants to seniors, and can coordinate all of the care you may need. Our team includes nearly 350 board-certified general practice physicians and advanced practice support staff.


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