Cervical cancer is the third most common among women in Latin America and the Caribbean but one that can be prevented through vaccination. Vaccines have been available to protect against the common types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cancer for more than a decade.
They are called papillomavirus because some types cause warts or papillomas, which are non-cancerous tumors. However, some types of HPV are known to cause cancer. There are certain types of HPV associated with causing cervical cancer, as well as many cancers of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and oropharynx (cancer of the throat and mouth). The two most important measures to prevent cervical cancer are getting vaccinated against HPV and getting routine scheduled tests according to medical recommendations.
Vaccination is the key
The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the value of immunization as a key component of primary health care and at the same time an indisputable human right. Vaccines are available to help protect children as well as young and middle-aged adults against certain HPV infections.
These vaccines protect against infection caused by the types of HPV most commonly associated with cancer, as well as some types that can cause genital and anal warts. These vaccines work only to prevent HPV infection (they are not a treatment for an existing infection).
Therefore, to be more effective, it is advisable to get the HPV vaccine before the person is exposed to the virus (for example, before the person is sexually active). Even if there has been an infection with a specific type of HPV, vaccination can protect against other types of HPV to which the person has not been exposed.
“Vaccination against HPV, both in the individual scenario, but especially in the public health scenario, will change the epidemiology of cancer, both in men and women, improve the quality of life of the population and favor human development, especially if we can make it reach the majority of the population as soon as possible,” said Dr. Gustavo Lazo, Pediatrician and Clinical Immunologist.
At what age?
The application of the HPV Vaccine is recommended for children of both sexes, from 11 to 12 years of age and can be administered from 9 years of age on. It is done in two doses, an initial one that can be applied from the age of 9 and a second dose that is applied 6 to 12 months later.
If vaccination occurs after 15 years of age, three doses will be required (the second dose is applied 2 months after the first and 4 months after this the third dose). Vaccination against HPV is recommended for young people and adults, up to age 26, who have not been vaccinated in childhood.
Before getting the vaccine, it is important that you tell the doctor or nurse if your child has any significant allergies, including an allergy to latex or yeast, before the vaccine is given. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends maintaining routine cervical cancer screenings despite having been vaccinated against HPV.