National Vaccination Day: Can A Simple Vaccine Prevent Cervical Cancer?
How effective is the HPV vaccine, that has been creating so much noise in the market?With an estimated 1,32,000 women being diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 74,000 dying from the disease every single year in India, cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths of women, worldwide. It is a cancer that spreads from the surface of the cervix into the deeper tissue in the cervix, or other parts of the body.
If you have a teenage female member in your near or extended family, chances are that your general family physician would have advised her to take the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine. With countless advertisements being pumped out by the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture and advertise it, is the HPV vaccine a ‘miracle drug’ that will protect your girl against this deadly disease? We find out!
Firstly, let us understand what exactly HPV is.
Human papillomavirus is a common virus that leads to an infection in the cervix, and happens as a result of sexual intercourse. Commonly found in the body’s mucous membranes, it is observed that around 90 per cent of cervical cancer infections are resolved by the body in as minimum as 3 doses of HPV vaccines.
Also, one can’t ignore the fact that the need for numerous doses of HPV vaccines has been a cause of much debate lately. This is especially important for less developed and developing regions, where more than 80 per cent of cervical cancer cases occur.
Is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine effective?
Yes, to a large extent it is! Renowned medical researchers have found that HPV vaccines are quite effective at detecting and stopping the cancer developing at the neck of the womb, also known as the cervix. In clinical trials, vaccines have been effective in over 99 per cent of pre-cancer or cancer cases, associated with HPV types 16 or 18 in young women.
Also, it is interesting to note that the HPV vaccine is more effective in younger girls, if administered before they become sexually active.
Is there something else I can do, apart from getting the vaccine?
- If you smoke, stop it right away – This is because smoking can elevate the risk of cervical cancer by 2-5 times, and can also decrease the functioning of the immune system in the body.
- Get a timely Pap test done – A Pap smear is recommended every 3 years, starting the time a woman reaches 21 years of age. Women over the age of 65 years can stop getting screened for cervical cancer, after a consecutive negative Pap test for at least 2 times.
- Use condoms – Even though condoms might not completely prevent infection, they provide some protection against HPV. In fact, men who use condoms are also less likely to be infected with HPV, further stopping the transmission of infection to their female partners.