Human Papilloma virus, also known as HPV is the name given to a group of different viruses, some of which are more serious than others. Some low risk types are responsible for conditions such as warts and verruca’s, whereas more serious types have been linked with cervical cancer. There are over 100 different types of HPV, with 40 affecting the genital areas. Some of these high risk strains have been identified to cause abnormal cell growth which in turn can lead to cervical cancer if not treated. According to Cancer Research UK, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged 35 or under.
The HPV vaccination programme was introduced in September 2008, to girls aged between 12 and 13, in year 8 of secondary school. It is administered by two separate injections in the upper arm, that are delivered between 6 – 24 months between each other. The National Health Service (NHS) offers a vaccine called Gardasil, which protects against two of the highest risk strains of HPV, responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers.
The HPV vaccine is classified as a safe vaccine, as it is suitable for majority of girls (with the exception of those who suffer from Anaphylaxis). A secondary bonus of Gardasil is that it also protects against genital warts. There are relatively few side effects, and the more serious ones are rare. As with all injections, tenderness and redness around the injection site may occur but this will wear off within a couple of days. Vaccination can help protect you for 10 years, and in some cases even longer. If a girl misses her vaccine, it is possible to receive it on the NHS up until their 18th birthday. HPV is very common and is spread through sexual activity, with half of the population being infected at some part of their lives. Getting the vaccine early helps to protect girls for the future, which greatly reduces the risk of becoming infected and developing cervical cancer.
Listed below is a link to the NHS HPV leaflet, a short video by the NHS and Buckinghamshire County Council along with some additional links with further information on this subject.
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The Guardian Family Network Team.