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Cervical Cancer

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Vaccines prevent infections caused by those strains of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. These vaccines protect against new HPV infections, but they do not treat existing infections.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three vaccines that protect against HPV. All three vaccines are approved for use in girls and women 9 to 26 years of age, and the two Gardasil vaccines are approved for the prevention of genital warts in boys and men 9 through 26 years of age.

  • Gardasil® protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. (Types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancers, while types 6 and 11 cause about 90% of genital warts.)
  • Gardasil 9 protects against the same HPV types as Gardasil plus 5 additional types that cause about 15% of cervical cancers.
  • Ceravix® protects against HPV types 16 and 18.

Boys and men are recommended to get the vaccine to protect against HPV and to help prevent spread of infections to their sexual partners, thus reducing their female partners' risk of developing cervical cancer.

The vaccines are given in three doses over a period of six months. The same vaccine should be used each time a dose is administered. They are considered safe but are most effective when given at younger ages and before initial exposure to the virus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that both girls and boys receive the HPV vaccine series when they are 11 to 12 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for men up to 21 and women up to 26 years of age who did not receive it when they were younger. AAP recommends that young people who are sexually active still receive the vaccination, as those already infected with one type of HPV infection may benefit from the protection against other types included in the vaccine.

The vaccines do not protect against all cervical cancers, so routine screening is recommended even if a woman has received the vaccine.

Cervical cancer may also be prevented by avoiding risk factors such as multiple sex partners, unprotected sex, and smoking. Early detection and treatment of precancerous areas found on the cervix may prevent them from developing into cancer. Screening for, and treating, precancerous lesions are also crucial to preventing cervical cancer.

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