From the common cold to the stomach bug, kids encounter different viruses. Most of them are harmless. But there is a virus affecting adolescents that can cause cancer: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Most parents have heard about HPV, but don’t know much about it or the breakthrough HPV vaccine. At ACCESS, we’re taking time to tell you what you need to know, so you can take action to keep your kids healthy.
HPV is a common virus that can be passed from person to person during sex. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 80% of sexually active teens will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
HPV + Cancer
Most of the time, HPV causes minor symptoms like genital warts that go away after a while. But when the virus lingers in the body, it can lead to cancer. In fact, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
Thanks to medical research, scientists have developed a vaccine to prevent HPV and the health problems it can cause. Because HPV is spread through sexual contact, it is necessary to get the vaccine before adolescents become sexually active.
About the vaccine
In accordance with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in the United States, ACCESS recommends a routine HPV vaccination for both females and males.
- Females: HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 to 12 years. It can be administered starting at 9 years of age, and catch-up vaccination is recommended for females aged 13 to 26 years who have not been previously vaccinated or who have not completed the vaccine series.
- Males: HPV vaccine is recommended at 11 to 12 years. It can be administered starting at 9 years of age, and catch-up vaccination is recommended for males aged 13 to 21 years who have not been previously vaccinated or who have not completed the vaccine series.
Cervical cancer screening
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by HPV. As part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Month, we want to remind young women, age 21 and older, to get a routine cervical cancer screening — even if they’ve received the HPV vaccine.
“It is important to know that cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Over the past years, both the number of cases and the mortality associated with cervical cancer have decreased significantly,” says ACCESS Chief Medical Officer Jairo Mejia, M.D. “This positive change is the result of more women being tested but, more importantly, a group of preventive measures available to every woman today, including the vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and education about safer sexual practices.”
Learn more or schedule an appointment
If you have questions about the HPV vaccine, cervical cancer prevention or diagnosis, schedule an appointment with your health care provider today. ACCESS has locations near you and our team of health care professionals is ready to help you learn more.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Cancer Institute
Harvard Health Publishing
US Department of Health & Human Services