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BRAIN ATTACK:

Cervical Cancer Vaccine

By Dr. Priyanka Singh in Cancer Care / Oncology

Nov 01 , 2018 | 7 min read

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The Cervical Cancer Vaccine or HPV vaccine protects you from the Human Papilloma Virus that spread through sexual contact. This group of viruses is responsible for cervical cancers and several other types of cancers, including vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers.

HPV Vaccine - Most Recommended Vaccine For Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide and the most common cancer in Indian women. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection is the single most important contributing factor responsible for cancer cervix. The infection does not cause symptoms and condoms do not offer protection against it. Of the various strains, HPV serotypes 16 and 18 account for nearly 76.7% of cervical cancer in India; other strains lead to genital warts.

About 80% of sexually active women acquire genital HPV by 50 years of age. A vast majority of the infections resolve spontaneously and only a minority (<1%) progress to cancer.  As the lag period between the oncogenic (cancer-causing) HPV infection and cervical cancer are 15–20 years, developing a vaccine against HPV was a logical, much-needed step in the prevention of cervical cancer.

The HPV virus causes changes in pap smears ranging from low to high-grade precancerous lesions that finally end up in the cancer cervix. Regular Pap smear is essential for all sexually active women even if they have been fully vaccinated. This is because other factors too contribute to the development of cervical cancer.

These include:

  • Long-term use of hormonal contraceptives,
  • High parity
  • Early initiation of sexual activity,
  • Multiple sex partners,
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Co-infection with chlamydia trachomatis and herpes
  • Immunosuppression
  • Low socioeconomic status,
  • Poor local hygiene 

Human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 are responsible for almost 50% of high-grade cervical cancers. However, cervical cancer is preventable. HPV vaccine is highly recommended for preventing cervical cancer. This is because Cervical Cancer Vaccine India can prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV.

What does the HPV vaccine do?

The HPV vaccine triggers the body's immune system to target cells that have been infected by certain types of HPV. That means it provides the body with protection for almost all cases of cervical cancer. Research shows that the HPV vaccine can protect against almost all types of cervical cancer. This includes the two types of HPV that are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer – HPV 16 and 18.

The cervical cancer vaccine or HPV vaccine is recommended for girls from 9-14 as part of the routine immunisation schedule. The vaccine is very effective if it is administered before a person becomes sexually active.

What are the Ingredients in HPV Vaccine?

HPV vaccine or Cervical Cancer Vaccine contains tiny proteins that are present on the outside of the real human papillomavirus. These proteins are made in the laboratories on yeast cells and once fully grown they look like human papillomavirus. However, they don't contain the genetic material of HPV, so don't reproduce themselves or cause diseases.

In addition to these proteins, the HPV vaccine also contains sodium chloride, L-histidine, aluminum, borax, water, and Polysorbate 80 for stimulating the immune system and to stabilise the vaccine to make it suitable for injection.

Who is the HPV vaccine for and when should it be given?

HPV vaccine or Cervical Cancer Vaccine is for girls and boys starting from 9 years old. It is given as a 3-dose series of shots over 6 months. For best results, administer the vaccine before a person becomes sexually active. But if the HPV vaccine is given after a person becomes sexually active, it will still boost their immune system's ability to fight against HPV and cervical cancer. The earlier the vaccine is given, the better.

In addition, Cervical Cancer Vaccine India can also be given to up to 45 years of age. However, it is wise to seek the professional advice of a doctor if you are between 27 to 45 years of age and want to get the HPV vaccine.

Who should not get the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. It is also not recommended for individuals who are suffering from any other kind of medical condition. If you are prone to allergies, you should discuss this with your doctor before you get the HPV vaccine.

Does the HPV vaccine offer benefits if you're already sexually active?

If a girl or boy has been having unprotected sex and has already been exposed to HPV, that's no problem for the HPV vaccine. The vaccine will still protect them from cervical cancer and other cancers which are caused by HPV types 16 or 18. However, the HPV vaccine won't treat your existing HPV infections.

Does the HPV vaccine carry any health risks or side effects?

HPV vaccine doesn't contain any harmful ingredients and has been found safe in most of the studies conducted. However, the injection may cause some pain and redness at the injection site, which will subside in a few minutes. You may also experience weakness, dizziness, fainting, nausea, or vomiting after the injection. Therefore, it is advised to sit and relax for 5 minutes after getting your shot.

If I already have HPV, will this vaccine treat it?

No, the HPV vaccine cannot treat existing HPV infections. HPV vaccine only protects you from getting HPV. To get rid of HPV, you will need medication and treatments from an expert doctor.

Does the HPV Vaccine Protect Me for a Lifetime?

The HPV vaccine will protect you from cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18. This protection is long-lasting and lifelong. Many recent studies have proven that the HPV vaccine offers almost 100% protection even after 10 years.

HPV vaccine induces a strong protective immune response, preventing the virus from releasing its genetic material. The two vaccines licensed globally, Gardasil and Cervarix are freely available in India. They do not protect against the strain the patient is already infected with hence, the ideal time to vaccinate a girl is before she has made her sexual debut, with the recommended age for initiation of vaccination being 9–12 years. Catch-up vaccination is permitted up to the age of 26 years.

Follow-up studies over 4–5 years showed no evidence of waning immunity and no booster is required. If the HPV vaccine schedule is interrupted, the vaccine series need not be restarted. If the series is interrupted after the first dose, the second dose should be administered as soon as possible, with an interval of at least 12 weeks between the second and third doses. If only the third dose is delayed, it should be administered as soon as possible.

How many shots do I need?

The HPV vaccine series will take 3 shots over 6 months. It is advisable to complete the series of 3 shots no later than 2 months after the last shot.

A total of three doses at 0, 2, and 6 months are recommended with Gardasil and 0, 1, and 6 months with Cervarix. HPV vaccines can be given simultaneously with other vaccines such as Hepatitis B.

Do women who've received the HPV vaccine still need to have Pap tests?

Yes, women who've been vaccinated still need regular Pap tests. This is because the vaccine protects your body from HPV and cervical cancer, but doesn't prevent other changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Regular Pap tests will ensure you of early detection and treatment, if necessary.

What can you do to protect yourself from cervical cancer if you're not in the recommended vaccine age group?

If you're not in the recommended vaccine age group, then you can still protect yourself from cervical cancer by practicing safe sex and getting regular Pap tests.

Will My Insurance Cover the Cost of the HPV Vaccine?

Many insurance companies cover vaccinations. If you have a health insurance plan, ask your insurance agent if your insurance plan covers the cost of the HPV vaccine. Therefore, your insurance covering the cost of the HPV vaccine is subjective. It depends on the insurance company and insurance plan you have chosen.

The vaccine is administered in the lying down position and the patient should be observed for 15 min for the rare possibility of a fainting attack. Side effects could take the form of mild to moderate pain, swelling, and redness at the site of injection.  The vaccine should be deferred in patients with moderate or severe acute illnesses. It is not recommended in pregnant women though feeding mothers can receive it.

Conclusion

Cervical Cancer Vaccine India is a safe and effective cancer vaccination for girls and boys starting from 9 years old. It is an important tool in the battle against cervical cancer. However, it is recommended to speak to your doctor before you get the HPV vaccine if you are above 27 or 45 years of age.

Also, remember that Cervical Cancer Vaccine doesn’t guarantee you complete immunity to cervical cancer. There are still other factors that can lead to cervical cancer. So, always practice safe sex and lead a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Check out the best cancer hospital in Delhi.


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