Vaccine could one day help eliminate cervical cancer

Medical experts say the HPV vaccine has shown remarkable results when it comes to preventing the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Experts say the vast majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by Human papillomavirus, or HPV
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:30 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Every year, about 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States. However, cases have dropped in recent decades because of preventative measures like pap smears and the HPV vaccine.

According to the American Cancer Society, if it’s caught early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treated cancers. Cervical cancer incidence rates dropped by 65 percent from 2012 to 2019 among women between the ages of 20 and 24.

According to the American Cancer Society, that age group was among the first group of women to get the HPV vaccine.

“The majority of people do not have symptoms and will clear the HPV virus,” said Dr. Anjalika Gandhi, a ProMedica gynecologic oncologist. “Up to 80 percent of people will have been exposed during their lifetime to HPV. In those people who do not clear the infection, it can cause pre-cancerous and cancerous changes in the cervix as well as other organs. Probably 99 percent of cervical cancers are related to HPV, a rare minority are not.”

That’s why she stresses the importance of getting the HPV vaccine.

“It is one of the rare vaccines that can prevent a cancer,” said Dr. Gandhi. “This vaccine has reduced pre-cancers and cancers associated with HPV. It is almost a miracle. I hope we can continue to reduce the rate, so we can eradicate cervical cancer.”

The age guidelines for vaccination have expanded in recent years.

“The age range for the vaccine is nine to 45, for all persons regardless of gender,” said Dr. Gandhi. “Overall, it is a safe vaccine, but talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns. The series is two, and sometimes three shots for ages nine to 15. For those 15 and older, there are three doses.”

Dr. Gandhi said it’s not just girls and women who should get the vaccine.

“Men should get it for a multitude of reasons,” said Dr. Gandhi. “Men are susceptible to HPV-related cancers. Also, when vaccinated, they can help protect their female partners.”

Dr. Gandhi said even if you’ve had the virus, the vaccine is still important.

“Just because you’ve already been exposed or infected by one strain, does not mean the vaccine can’t help protect against another strain,” said Dr. Gandhi.

She said it is critical to keep up with your preventative screenings. Once again, early detection is key.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the HPV vaccine or your cancer screenings.

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