If you are a female reading this, there is an 80 percent chance that you will contract at least one strain of genital HPV by the time you reach 50 years old. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, can increase your risk of developing genital warts, cervical cancer
, anal cancer, head and neck cancer, vaginal cancer and more.
Over 500,000 women are diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer alone each year, causing around 230,000 deaths annually. There is a vaccine available that could help prevent such dangers as cervical cancer, but there are many out there who oppose it. HPV Basics
So what exactly is HPV? There are over 200 known strains of HPV, yet most of them produce no symptoms in humans. It is normally transmitted sexually. Not to be confused with herpes (oral and genital), some strains of HPV can also cause genital warts. Only a small fraction of HPV cases will lead to cancer, but the most common form of cancer for people infected with the virus is that which affects the cervix. The HPV Vaccine
Research on the HPV vaccine
began in the 1980's, and was a joint effort by researchers at the University of Rochester, Georgetown University Medical Center, the University of Queensland in Australia and the U.S. National Cancer Institute. It wasn't until 2006 that the fully developed HPV vaccine was approved for public use by the FDA. Since then, the vaccine has been approved in over 80 countries and over 26 million doses have been distributed in the United States alone.
There are two different HPV vaccines available in America - Cervarix and Gardasil. Both of these target various strains of HPV, and they focus on the highest risk strains. They have been proven to be extremely effective at preventing a person from contracting the human papillomavirus, as long as they are administered at a young age and at the right dosage and frequency. The Political Debate
As of late, politicians have decided to use the HPV vaccine as a political weapon. The most notable example is that of U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who is arguing against making the HPV vaccine mandatory for all sixth grade girls. Her argument stems from a story that was relayed to her by a mother who claims her child suffered severe side effects from the vaccine that resulted in her becoming mentally retarded. Meanwhile Rick Perry has defended his decision to mandate the vaccine. Many healthcare professionals from national organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics have gone on record to say that such side effect has no scientific validity, and that there is no possible way to link it to the vaccine.
While the HPV vaccine can cost around $400, many schools and local health departments provide it for free. It is best if the vaccine is administered to children before the age of 16, as the vaccine loses its effectiveness as the patient grows older. The side effects are usually just slight arm pain or minor bruising at the site of injection.
While experts say the chance of preventing any type of HPV-related cancer
is over 70 percent with the vaccine, it is up to you as a woman or a parent to make the right decision for YOU and for your child.