By Dr. Hadass Fuerst & Dr. Marissa Jacobs
Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day every year. This year for Women’s Health Week from May 8 – 14, NOAH is highlighting three health issues that women should be familiar with and can discuss with their provider any time of year.
NOAH recommends that everyone have a primary care provider (PCP) and a medical home. If you don’t have one or both of these, contact NOAH and establish a PCP who is right for you!
What is the HPV Vaccine?
The HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted infection and is extremely common. Almost everyone will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. Typically, if you are exposed, your body will fight off the virus easily. But when that doesn’t happen, HPV can lead to cancer later in life. In fact, HPV is responsible for more than 95% of cervical cancer cases.
The two- or three-part HPV vaccine (depending on your age) is given to preteens and is covered by most insurance, including Medicaid/AHCCS. If you don’t have insurance, you can get the vaccine at no cost at NOAH through Vaccines for Children.
Why is this vaccine so important?
The HPV vaccine provides coverage for nine strains of HPV which are linked to cervical cancer, anal cancers, and mouth cancers. Getting this vaccine protects against HPV and decreases the risk of future cancer. HPV vaccine is essentially a cancer vaccine.
Why does this vaccine start at 11?
HPV vaccines can start as young as age 9, but according to the American Cancer Society, preteens have the best immune response with this vaccine, and the vaccine works best when given before someone is exposed to the virus. If the vaccines don’t start until age 15, they will need three doses instead of two. Vaccines can be given up to age 26.
Both males and females need the HPV vaccine because it protects you and your partners from getting or passing the virus. It also prevents genital warts and some cancers which both males and females can get.
What if you are 26 years and older?
The vaccine is now approved up to age 45, but it is less effective after age 18. Discuss this with your doctor if you are interested. Most sexually active adults have been exposed to some, but probably not all, strains of HPV. If you haven’t received the vaccine and are over 26, the best way to prevent these types of cancers is regular physicals and screenings with your PCP.