A shot against cancer

A vaccine that could protect my child against cancer? How can I say no?  Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States — causing many types of cancers in both women and men. The HPV vaccination has been shown to prevent these cancers and is now recommended for all preteens, girls and boys, starting around age 11 or 12.

Daisy Zhou, MD, a Washington University Clinical Associates pediatrician with Fenton Pediatrics, explains, “HPV is a nasty virus that is epidemic in the United States. Many young people think they are safe if their partner says they have never had any STDs. Males can contract the disease and pass it on unknowingly.

HPV has been shown to cause cervical, vaginal and vulva cancers in women, penile cancer in men, as well as anal cancer, and throat and esophagus cancers in both men and women.

HPV is usually transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sexual intercourse with a person who has the virus. It can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact that does not involve penetration of the anus or vagina.

Many types of HPV infection result in no symptoms at all. For some types of HPV, the most visible symptoms are genital warts. They don’t often cause pain, but may cause itching.”

Diagnosing HPV

In men, HPV is often diagnosed when warts are seen on the penis.

In women, it is more difficult to diagnose because the genital warts are inside the vagina or cervix. It is important for women who are sexually active to have regular pelvic exams and Pap smears.

The vaccination

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that girls and boys under age 15 be vaccinated against HPV with a two-shot dose beginning at age 11. For girls and boys over age 15, a three-shot dose is needed.

The HPV vaccine is safe and prevents more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancers. Serious side effects are rare and are similar to other vaccines including soreness at the injection site, dizziness or fainting.

Talk to your pediatrician to schedule your child’s HPV vaccination and give your son or daughter the gift of protection from a preventable cancer.  Their future selves will thank you.

Looking for a pediatrician? Dr. Zhou is accepting new patients. Please call 636-349-5437 for an appointment.

Fenton Pediatrics
714 Gravois Road, Suite 200
Fenton, MO 63026