A new vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer is currently available and recommended for females ages nine to 26. The vaccine, called Gardasil, prevents cervical cancer, genital warts, and precancerous and dysplastic lesions that are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types six, 11, 16 and 18.
A new vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer is currently available and recommended for females ages nine to 26.
The vaccine, called Gardasil, prevents cervical cancer, genital warts, and precancerous and dysplastic lesions that are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types six, 11, 16 and 18. About 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts cases are caused by those strains of HPV, according to the new vaccine’s website.
Cancer will develop in the cervix-which connects the body of the uterus to the vagina-over an extended period of time and tends to occur during midlife. Cervical cancer is generally treated by surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine on June 8, 2006.
Gardasil is not effective for the prevention of diseases that are not caused by HPV, nor is it intended as treatment for someone who is already infected by the virus, according to the FDA. Individuals who are infected with one strain of HPV may still benefit by receiving the vaccine, because it may protect them from the other strains.
The American Cancer Society said in an estimated survey that 11,150 new cases of cervical cancer would develop among women in the U.S. in 2007. Of those, 3,670 cases are expected to be fatal. According to the cancer society, one in 138 women have cervical cancer in their lifetime.
Gardasil is given in a series of three shots over six months. The vaccine should be administered before the onset of sexual activity (before women are exposed to HPV), but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who are sexually active and are not affected by the virus should still receive the immunization.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is part of the CDC, recommends that the vaccine be given routinely to girls ages 11-12. It also recommends women as old as 26 receive the vaccine.
Women and men in their late teens to early 20s are the most affected by HPV and at least 80 percent of women will have acquired HPV by the age of 50, according to the CDC.
Gardasil is not considered a substitute for regular cervical cancer screenings (pap smears), according to the CDC, because it does not protect against all types. The entire three-shot vaccine series costs $360. Coverage among health plans may vary, according to the Gardasil website.