What’s even better news is that within the past decade, a specific vaccine has also been created to protect against at least five different types of cancers. This vaccine, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, is now recommended for all girls and boys during their annual check-ups.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection with over 100 different types of strands in existence. In fact, HPV is so common that an estimated nine out of 10 sexually active people will at some point be infected with HPV. Often times, HPV does not present with symptoms, which makes it hard to know when someone may be infected. For this reason, it is important to protect your child against HPV, as some forms of HPV can cause multiple cancers. At least two strands of the HPV virus have been shown to cause cervical, vagina, and vulva cancers in women, penile cancer in men, and head and neck cancer in both men and women. HPV can live for a long time in a person’s body, so someone may not know they have HPV, or an associated cancer, until years after being intimate with someone who carried the HPV virus. Sadly, HPV contributes to over 31,000 new cases of cancer each year, but we can reduce that number by protecting our children with the HPV vaccine.
Unfortunately, nationwide only 65 percent of girls initiate the HPV vaccination series and 49 percent receive the two recommended doses, while only 56 percent of boys initiate and 37 percent complete the series.
The good news is now the HPV vaccine is available for boys and girls to protect thems before they become sexually active. It’s also safe and over 90 percent effective. This success rate could prevent over 90 percent of HPV cases, or eliminate 29,000 new cancer diagnoses each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that both girls and boys be vaccinated with a two-shot vaccine around ages 11 – 12. The second vaccine will be administered within one year after the first dose. The vaccine can be given until age 26, and being vaccinated after exposure to HPV will help reduce their risk of contracting future HPV infections. Adolescents and young adults, starting at age 15, who receive the HPV vaccine will require a three-dose vaccination series.
Protect your family against cancer, as it’s never too early to reduce your child’s risk. Talk with your pediatrician to schedule your child’s HPV vaccination.