There has been a marked increase in parents enquiring about the vaccination for the prevention of the HPV virus, which may lead to cervical cancer in women. Jackie Stockden, a registered nurse and mid-wife, explores the issue.
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus is a group of viruses that are common worldwide; mainly transmitted through sexual contact. HPV can cause genital warts, cancer of the cervix, anus and vulva/vagina. The majority of HPV infections do not cause symptoms or disease and resolve spontaneously. However, persistent infection with specific types of HPV, may lead to precancerous lesions, which may progress to cervical cancer.
Is prevention better than cure?
Today we are able to immunise against HPV and ultimately prevent cervical cancer, like we immunise our children against measles or chicken pox. HPV vaccines are available throughout the world and are highly effective in preventing infections with the HPV virus; responsible for 70% of cervical cancer globally.
Primary prevention begins with HPV vaccination of girls aged 9-13years. The centre of disease control and preventions, recommends all BOYS and girls get immunised. Other preventive interventions for boys and girls are:
- Educate about safe sexual practices, including delayed start of sexual activity.
- Promotion/provision of condoms for those already engaged in sexual activity.
- Warning about tobacco use; an important risk factor for cervical and other cancers.
It is important to make informed decisions and parents are encouraged to speak to their doctor or clinic sister about vaccinating against possible infection from the Human Papillomavirus.
For more information go to: http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/hpv/en/