What is HPV?

Answered by Dr. Jennifer Ambur.

HPV or human papillomavirus is a group of viruses that are spread through skin to skin contact, typically through oral, vaginal or anal sex.  HPV is associated with genital warts, precancerous lesions, as well as cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women, penile cancer in men, and anal and throat cancer (head and neck) in men and women.  

How does the vaccine work?

Gardasil-9, the latest version of the HPV vaccine, protects against 7 strains (types) of HPV that can cause cancer, as well as 2 strains that cause genital warts.  The vaccine is very safe and effective, preventing up to 90% of the cancers associated with this virus.  Now administered regularly for over 15 years, we have seen a significant (81%) decrease in HPV related infections.  Precancerous cervical changes among vaccinated women have decreased by 40%.  This means less invasive procedures, biopsies and surgeries for our patients.  

Who is the vaccine recommended for?

The vaccine is recommended for all everyone, ideally prior to sexual activity.   For this reason, it is recommended for children ages 11-12, as well as men and women through age 26.  It is less effective after the onset of sexual activity, as you may have already been exposed to HPV.  Recently, the HPV vaccine has been approved through age 45.  The CDC and ACOG both recommend that this be offered to men and women in this age group through “shared decision making with your doctor”. 

We at Haugen OB/Gyn highly recommend this vaccine for cancer prevention and carry it at all locations.  Talk to your provider today about vaccination!