HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. About 50% of sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Having no symptoms does not mean that a person does not have an HPV infection. However, some types of HPV virus can cause cancer. The HPV vaccine provides immunity against HPV-induced cancers by making the person immune to the HPV virus.
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What is HPV?
HPV is the name of the virus that is very common in humans and can cause genital warts and cancer in some people, although it does not cause a problem in most people. The HPV virus affects the skin. Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat, and genitals. Sexual intercourse is not necessary for HPV transmission. contact of HPV genital areas; It can also be transmitted through the common use of items such as anal, vaginal or oral sex, and towels that have come into contact with the genital area. The person infected with HPV may not show any symptoms; therefore, some special tests must be done to determine whether people are infected with HPV.
The HPV virus does not cause any problems or diseases in most people. Ninety percent of people infected with HPV regress within 2 years. However, some types of HPV can cause significant health problems such as:
- genital warts
- Liken planus
- cervical cancer
- anal cancer
- penile cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- vaginal cancer
- some head and neck cancers
The HPV test is part of the cervical cancer screening test. This screening is known as the HPV-Pap Smear Test. There is no blood test for the diagnosis of HPV. During screening, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and tested for HPV. Screening is done every five years in women aged 30 to 65. The aim of screening is to ensure early diagnosis of people with cervical cancer and to reduce mortality and morbidity caused by cervical cancer. Since men with homosexual relationships have a high risk of developing anal cancer, HPV testing is also recommended for men in the risk group.
Although it is not possible to completely prevent HPV, the following two suggestions can help prevent HPV:
- Using condoms during sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of HPV. However, condoms do not provide absolute protection as they do not completely cover the genital area.
- HPV vaccines protect against the HPV types that most commonly cause genital warts and cervical cancer, but not all HPV types.
The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is the HPV virus. The most commonly used HPV vaccines on the market are the bivalent vaccine and the quadrivalent vaccine. The bivalent vaccine provides protection against HPV types 16 and 18, which are the most common causes of cancer. The quadrivalent vaccine, on the other hand, provides protection against HPV types 16 and 18, as well as HPV types 6 and 11, which are the most common causes of genital warts. The HPV vaccine, known as the quadrivalent vaccine, is approved by the FDA and can be administered to both girls and boys. This vaccine prevents a significant portion of cervical cancer cases when given to girls or women before they are exposed to the virus. At the same time, this vaccine is protective against vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. Moreover, the HPV vaccine prevents genital warts, anal cancers, mouth cancers, and head and neck cancers in both men and women.
One of the reasons why HPV vaccine is desired to be administered to boys as well as girls is the prediction that vaccinating men will also reduce the risk of HPV transmission from men to women.
According to the recommendations of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), boys and girls aged 11-12 should be vaccinated with the first dose of HPV vaccine. However, vaccination should be done after the age of 9 at the earliest. This age range was determined by taking into account that girls and boys were not exposed to the virus at the age of 11-12. If the person has been infected with HPV before, the protection of the vaccine is less. In addition, the vaccine response occurs better at younger ages.
There should be at least 6 months between the first dose of vaccine and the second dose. While two doses of vaccine provide protection against HPV until the age of 15, three doses of vaccine should be administered in order for the vaccine to provide protection between the ages of 15-26.
The FDA has stated that the quadrivalent vaccine can be administered between the ages of 9-45. However, it is stated that it would be more appropriate for people between the ages of 27-45 to get a doctor’s advice before getting vaccinated.
Frequently Asked Questions About the HPV Vaccine
Who Should Not Have the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women and people with serious illness. On the other hand, it is known that HPV does not prevent pregnancy. However, those who want to become parents and if the physician has the opinion that this does not occur naturally, they can apply to the IVF center to get information about the IVF stages . People with severe allergies, including allergies to fungi or latex, are advised to see and seek medical advice before getting vaccinated. People who have had an allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or who have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous HPV vaccine should also not be vaccinated.
DO SEXUALLY ACTIVE PEOPLE BENEFIT FROM THE HPV VACCINE?
Yes, they can benefit. Even if a person is infected with one type of HPV, they can be protected by vaccination against other HPV types. However, no vaccine provides benefits against pre-existing HPV infection. HPV vaccines only protect against specific HPV types that have not been exposed before.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE HPV VACCINE?
HPV vaccine has been found to be safe in many studies. Reported side effects are fairly mild. The most common side effects of the HPV vaccine are pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Sometimes dizziness and fainting can occur after vaccination. Sitting for 15 minutes after vaccination reduces the risk of fainting. Headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness may occur after vaccination. The CDC and FDA continue to monitor and report vaccine effects, despite the possibility of unusual or serious side effects.
IS HPV VACCINE INCLUDED IN THE ROUTINE VACCINATION SCHEDULE?
No. HPV vaccine is not included in the vaccination calendar, which was determined by the TR Ministry of Health and was last updated on June 3, 2020.
SHOULD WOMEN WITH HPV VACCINE PARTICIPATE IN CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING?
Yes. The HPV vaccine does not replace the cervical cancer screening program, also known as the Pap Smear Test. HPV vaccines do not cover all HPV types. Cervical cancer screening program, which starts at the age of 30 and is carried out every five years until the age of 65, is one of the most important factors of preventive and preventive health services.
HOW CAN THOSE WHO ARE NOT IN THE RECOMMENDED VACCINE AGE RANGE BE PROTECTED AGAINST CERVICAL CANCER?
People who are not within the recommended age range for the HPV vaccine can reduce their risk of cervical cancer by not having unprotected sex. They should not share the items with the risk of contact with the genital area and should ensure the hygiene of these items. Smoking is a factor that increases the risk of cervical cancer. Smokers should definitely quit smoking. They should participate in the screening program and have a regular Pap smear test after the age of 30.
Symptoms such as vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, pain during sexual intercourse, postmenopausal bleeding, pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding outside of menstrual periods may be signs of cervical cancer. In case of such situations, consult a doctor immediately and do not neglect your health!