January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and Sunshine Community Health Center wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. HPV is also a major cause of cervical cancer. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.
The good news?
- The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV.
- Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.
How can an HPV shot help you?
Ten years have passed since the HPV vaccine was released and reports show a significant decline in human papillomavirus infections and precancers. Cases for HPV infections, cancers, and genital warts in teens have dropped 86% since the use of HPV shots. On adult women, HPV cases and its related cancers, and genital warts have declined over 70 percent as well.
Teens, both boys and girls, should get the shot because HPV infection can affect both males and females.
Are there side effects from the HPV shot?
Yes. The HPV vaccine is just like any medication with its own side effects, which are often mild. Possible side effects include:
- swollen and redness at the injection site
- dizzy spells and nausea among teens and young adults alike
Despite these possible side effects, the benefits of an HPV vaccine are far more significant and long-lasting.
Boys and men can get the HPV too.
Obviously, boys and men have no cervix and therefore the risk of cervical cancer is zero. However, males are still at risk for cancer caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. For this reason, health providers recommend boys 11-12 years old to get the HPV vaccine with a follow-up dose six months later. Your child should get the HPV vaccine at an early age (before any possibility of sexual activity) so they can be protected from the virus before they get exposed.
Sunshine Community Health Center encourages:
- Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12
- Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
Teens and young adults also need to get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as preteens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine.
You and your family members may be able to get these preventative screenings or immunizations at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to learn more. Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy.
- Get the facts about gynecologic cancer: Cervical Facts Flyer
- HPV affects men, too. Find out how you can protect yourself and your partner: HPV and Men Fact Sheet
- PAP and HPV tests; what are they, how to prepare and what do the results mean: National Cervical Cancer Coalition
- Both boys and girls need the #HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12: HPV Vaccines