This past week, these are the questions I’ve been getting from my patients about HPV. Here we go again because we’ve heard about head and neck cancer and HPV. HPV can be a big deal, so here's what you need to know about the Gardasil HPV Vaccine:
1. What does the vaccine do? In an HPV naïve person, the vaccine protects you from the strains of HPV that cause genital warts and abnormal cervical cells (cervical dysplasia and thus cervical cancer). The Gardasil is a quadrivalent vaccine (meaning it protects against 4 HPV genotypes 6/11/16/18). Types 16 and 18 are associated with the majority of cervical cancers and 6 and 11 are associated with the majority of genital warts.
2. How does the vaccine work? Gardasil contains inactive HPV proteins which produce antibodies to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts (also vaginal and vulvar neoplasia, among other HPV related illnesses).
3. Who should get the vaccine? Children older than 9 and adults less than 26. Interestingly, Canadian labeling is aged 9-45. You can begin the series anytime between the ages of 13-26. The goal in vaccinating men obviously is to decrease the transmission rate from men to women and to protect men from HPV related disease.
4. What are the screening tests for men and women? There are no screening tests for men with the exception of anal pap smears in men who have sex with men (and the effectiveness of that is still being investigated). In women we can do HPV DNA testing on cervical cells during your pap smear.
- Dr O.
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