HPV, Cancer and Vaccination
HPV stands for human papillomavirus and there are 100 types but only 13 of them are known to cause cancer, the others are harmless and cause problems such as warts. HPV is transmitted through intimate sexual contact such as sexual intercourse and a strain of HPV is thought to be present in at least half of all sexually active women. In fact 3000 women are diagnosed with the problem each year and approximately 1000 die each year.
Cervical cancer is rare in women under 25 and most women get the problem in their 30s or when they are older. So how does HPV lead to cervical cancer? There are two particular strains of HPV (types 16 and 18) which cause over 70% of all cervical cancers in the UK. Although HPV infection is usually symptom free it can severely damage the lining of the cervix and repeat infection if left untreated can cause cervical cancer. The Vaccination The HPV vaccine protects against the two aforementioned types of the virus as these cause over 70% of cervical cancers.
It is estimated that the vaccine saves the lives of over 400 women per year. There are three doses of the vaccination needed spread over a 6 month period and it is necessary to have all three jabs to ensure best protection. The vaccine has undergone rigorous testing and is 100% completely safe, in fact this testing was a condition in the granting of the licence. The vaccine will be offered to 12-13 year old girls from the autumn of 2008 and will be carried out by primary care trusts. Most girls will be given the vaccination in school and for older girls given at their local GP.
Many women are under the illusion that this eliminated the need for cervical screening however it is VITAL that all women go for cervical screening from the age of 25, vaccine or no vaccine. The cervical screening service offered by the NHS saves about 4500 lives a year and is offered to women up to the age of 25.