The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine ever to protect against cancer.
What is HPV?
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common virus that affects both men and women. There are many different types of HPV. Most types do not cause any symptoms and will go away on their own. However, some types of HPV can cause diseases of the sex organs (genital area). If the virus does not go away on its own, it can develop into cervical cancer, abnormal cells, or genital warts, depending on the HPV type.
Who gets HPV?
You can get HPV from any sex act involving genital contact with a person who has HPV. The chance of getting HPV is greatly reduced by using protection (like a condom) during the sex act. Many people who have HPV may not show any signs of it. So, they can pass on the virus to others without even knowing it.
What happens if I get HPV?
In most people, the body’s immune system will fight off HPV. If your body does not fight off HPV, it could develop into genital warts or abnormal cells in the cervix. Abnormal cells in the cervix could lead to cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer in the cervix. The cervix is the part of the uterus (womb) that opens to the vagina. Cervical cancer is a
serious condition that can be life threatening. HPV is associated with almost all cases of cervical cancer.
What is the HPV vaccine used for?
The HPV vaccine will help protect you from cervical cancer. It also helps protect you from genital warts and some other genital diseases. The vaccine helps prevent these diseases, but it will not treat them. You cannot get these diseases from the vaccine.
Who should receive the HPV vaccine?
The vaccine is for girls and women ages 9 through 26. You should not receive the HPV vaccine if you:
- are allergic to any if the ingredients in the vaccine
- have an allergic reaction after getting a dose of the vaccine
How is the HPV vaccine given?
The vaccine is given as a shot (an injection). Three doses of the vaccine are needed.
- first dose: at a date chosen by you and your doctor or nurse
- second dose: 2 months after the first dose
- third dose: 6 months after the first dose
What else should I know about the HPV vaccine?
- After getting the vaccine, you still need a check up every year. You still need a Pap test as often as your doctor or nurse tells
- Like all vaccines, the HPV vaccine may not fully protect everyone who gets it.
- The 4 types of HPV that this vaccine protects against cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. But the vaccine will not protect against all of the diseases caused by HPV.
What should I tell my health care professional before I am vaccinated or my child is vaccinated for HPV?
It is very important to tell your health care professional if you or your child:
- has had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine
- has a bleeding disorder and cannot receive shots in the arm
- has a weakened immune system (for example, due to a genetic defect or HIV infection)
- is pregnant or is planning to get pregnant soon
- has any illness with a fever more than 100 F (38 C)
- takes or plans to take any medicine, including over-the-counter medicine (medicine you can buy without a prescription from your doctor)