The NCCC points out that, although HPV vaccines won’t eliminate all HPV or cervical cancer, the vaccines also can help prevent infection from the HPV that can lead to cervical cancer and can cause genital warts. With prevention in mind, the CDC recommends the three-dose HPV vaccine for girls ages 11 to 12. For girls and young women ages 13 through 26 who haven’t been previously vaccinated, a catch-up vaccination is advised. The CDC cautions that males also are at risk, and recommends that boys aged 11 or 12 and young men aged 13 through 21, who did not receive any or all of the three recommended doses when they were younger, receive HPV vaccinations.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two HPV immunizations. Gardasil ® is a vaccine for both males and females; Cervarix ® is just for females. Cervical Cancer Facts The National Cancer Institute reports that – while cervical cancer is preventable in certain circumstances – it estimates that in 2012, more than 12,000 American women will have been diagnosed and nearly 4,000 will have died from an advanced form of the disease. Prevention through early detection is the key. Toward that end, the ACS recommends that women complete their first Pap no later than age 21. Women aged 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every three years, according to the ACS, unless advised otherwise by a health care professional. Women ages 30 through 65 can then be screened every five years with a Pap test combined with an HPV test, or every three years with a Pap test alone. Women with certain risk factors may need to have more frequent screening or continue screening beyond age 65. The ACS further cautions that, even if they’ve received the HPV vaccine, women still need a regular Pap screening.
While precancerous cells and early cervical cancer generally do not cause symptoms, the ACS notes that cervical cancer that has become invasive can cause symptoms, including:
- abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex or between periods, and having longer or heavier than usual periods;
- pain during sexual intercourse; and
- unusual vaginal discharge that may contain blood or occur between periods.
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