Human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cancer of the cervix, is the most sexually transmitted agent worldwide. While 70 per cent of all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV type 16 and 18, it is also important to note that HPV type 16 also causes cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, oral cavity, and oropharynx and tonsils.
There are two approved cervical cancer vaccines, Gardasil, for girls and boys, and Cervarix, for girls only. Both vaccines can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if given before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus. In addition, both can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in women and Gardasil can prevent genital warts and anal cancer in women and men.
The cervical cancer vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 to 12, although it can be given as early as age nine. It's important for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are exposed to HPV. Once infected with HPV, the vaccine might not be as effective or might not work at all.
Also, response to the vaccine is better at younger ages than it is at older ages. If the three-dose series of vaccines isn't completed by ages 11 to 12, it is advisable that young women below the age 26 and men below 21 receive the vaccine.
Both vaccines are given as a series of three injections over a six-month period. The second dose is given one to two months after the first dose, and the third dose is given six months after the first dose. Any allergies should be reported before the vaccine is given.
Also, if she has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of the vaccine, she should not get the vaccine. For those already sexually active, it is possible that, even if you already have HPV, one could still benefit from the vaccine.
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