To Get or Not to Get? That’s the HPV Vaccine Question

June 11, 2018

Arlanda Smith, MSN, WHNP-BC

Arlanda’s Women’s Health FYI Corner

For years now, vaccinations have been safely given around the world to help prevent certain serious or deadly infections.  They work by preparing the body to fight bacteria or viruses that cause infections.

The HPV vaccine is a vaccination that helps people from becoming infected with a virus called the “Human Papilloma Virus” or “HPV.”

HPV is a common virus that infects both men and women.  HPV is transmitted through intimate skin to skin contact.  Being infected with HPV increases your risk of certain cancers like cervical, vaginal, penis, mouth, and throat cancer.  There are also some types of HPV that causes genital warts.

Although HPV causes more than 32,000 cases of cancer every year in the U.S., in most cases HPV goes away on its own.  But when HPV does not go away it can cause serious health problems.  Since there is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer, the HPV vaccine can help keep you from getting an HPV infection.

The HPV vaccine went through years of extensive safety testing, but like any vaccine or medicine HPV vaccines can cause side effects like pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.

Cancers caused by HPV may not have symptoms until it’s quite advanced and hard to treat.  For this reason, women should be regularly screened for cervical cancer, with a pap smear.  Cervical cancer screenings can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early before ever turning into cancer.

Because there is not a screen for other cancers caused by HPV it is important that people are vaccinated for HPV.

If you have any questions about the HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screenings, please contact Health Partners for Women.

Arlanda Smith is a certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with Memorial Healthcare’s Health Partners for Women. She is accepting new patients with most insurance. To reach Arlanda, contact (989) 729-4300.

Sources:  Up To Date and CDC