Cervical Cancer Cause and Prevention

Unlike some other cancers, cervical cancer doesn’t run in the family. It’s caused by certain types of HPV.

If a woman has an infection from certain types of HPV and the infection doesn’t go away on its own, abnormal cells can develop in her cervix (the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina).

Every year in the United States, HPV causes about 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer. That's about 35 women diagnosed each day.

If these abnormal cells aren’t found through routine cervical cancer screening and treated, cervical cancer can develop. That's why it's important for women to get regular screenings.

Many women with cervical cancer were probably exposed to cancer-causing HPV types in their teens and 20s.

In fact, women in their teens and 20s may be more vulnerable to certain infections than older women. That's why it's important for parents to talk to their child’s doctor before their child becomes sexually active.

The HPV vaccine protects against several strains of human papilloma virus, a virus that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Females between ages 11 and 26 and males between ages 11 and 21 are eligible for the vaccine.

Vaccine Controversies

Despite the vaccine’s proven health benefits, some controversy has arisen in the wake of the vaccine’s introduction. Topics about the vaccine that have sparked discussion include:

  • Health risks: From a health standpoint, some are concerned that the vaccine doesn’t provide enough protection since it doesn’t prevent all strains of the disease, including some that can cause cervical cancer. In addition, the vaccine is so new that little is known about the long-term effects. Even so, the vaccine is still recommended by numerous organizations, including The American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  • Age of vaccination: The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that both boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine between the ages of 11 and 14. The intention of vaccination at an early age is to protect children before they become sexually active. Some parents have indicated that they feel this is too early to vaccinate a child for an STD, while others feel it will encourage teens to be more sexually promiscuous.
  • Vaccination concerns: In recent years, more parents have become concerned with the way vaccinations affect their children’s health, even going so far as to forgo some recommended vaccinations. This has been the case with HPV for those parents who feel there are already too many vaccines out there. However, the CDC clarifies that you cannot get HPV from the vaccine.
  • Vaccination mandates: Another issue has arisen in response to the Texas governor’s mandate that all 6th graders entering public schools must be vaccinated for HPV. Some Texas parents were outraged by this mandate, while many parents in other states worried that the same requirement would be placed upon their children. HPV mandates are still rare at this point, but they may become more common in the coming years.

For some, the decision to get the HPV vaccine may be an easy one. Anyone between the ages of 11 and 26 are likely eligible to receive the vaccine. However, those who are unsure whether the vaccine is right for them (or for their child) should talk to their doctor about the pros and cons. Most doctors agree that the benefits of the HPV vaccine outweigh any risks, especially since the actual health risks are few if any.

Deciding to get a vaccine or have your child be vaccinated can be a difficult decision, but with such strong support from many health organizations, more people are choosing to get the HPV vaccination. Due to its protection against some very dangerous and cancer-causing strains of the most common STD, most people have deciding that the pros far outweigh the cons. However, controversies over this issue will likely continue for many years, especially as new data arises concerning the vaccine’s effects.

Local Resources for vaccines can be found at: http://www.immunizeelpaso.net/

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