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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
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Sexually transmitted diseases are present in 25 percent of teen girls
These alarming statistics were recently discovered by a new study from the CDC. The heaviest burden lies in the African-American teenagers where about one in two were affected compared to one in five white teens. The most common STDs include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and trichomoniasis.

HPV and chlamydia are the most common with almost one in five overall infected with a strain of HPV associated with cervical cancer or genital warts. In this study, four percent of the teenaged girls had chlamydia which is usually without symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, a common cause for ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, and infertility. Also, the CDC study found that 2.9 percent of young women had trichomoniasis, and 2 percent were infected with genital herpes.

These statistics underline the CDCs important recommendation: If teens choose to be sexually active, they need to protect themself and be screened for these infections. Also, all girls between the ages of 11 and 26 should get vaccinated for HPV. March 2008 CDC news

FDA Licenses New Vaccine for Prevention of Cervical Cancer and Other Diseases in Females Caused by Human Papillomavirus
Gardasil is the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer, precancerous genital lesions and genital warts due to human papillomavirus. HPV vaccines have the potential to prevent thousands of deaths from cervical cancer in the United States and millions of deaths worldwide. (1, 2)

The vaccine is approved for use in females 9-26 years of age.(2) Gardasil is given as three injections over a six-month period and is expected to prevent most cases of cervical cancer due to HPV types included in the vaccine. Females are not protected by the vaccination if they have already been infected with the HPV virus. There is no simple test for the presence of HPV infection which means that many women who get the vaccine may already be carrying one of the several different types of HPV. This fact underlines the importance of immunization before potential exposure to the virus. Its sole purpose is for prevention, not treatment.

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the federal government on vaccination policies, has recommended that 11- and 12-year-old girls be routinely vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Further recommendations were made for Gardasil to be administered to girls as young as 9, at the provider's discretion, and for women up to age 26 who have not previously been vaccinated. June 2006

What is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?

HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the United States. Most people who have ever had sex, both men and women, have been infected at some point in their lives. Most people never even know they've had HPV because the virus usually doesn't cause any symptoms and the body is able to fight it off easily. At times, however, the virus doesn't go away. If the virus lingers in a woman's cervix, it can cause changes that eventually cause cervical cancer. (1)

Is there a cure for HPV?

No. There is no treatment or cure for HPV. However, there is treatment for the changes that HPV can cause on the cervix, as well as treatment for genital warts.

How can I protect myself from cervical cancer?
  • Immunization against HPV Females, 11- and 12-year-old, should be routinely vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Consideration for early administration to girls as young as 9, should be made at the provider's discretion. Women up to age 26 who have not previously been vaccinated, should also be considered for the vaccine.
  • Condoms, during every episode of vaginal, anal, or oral sex, should be used reduce the risk of getting genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. However, condoms are not completely protective.
  • Abstain from sex or have sex only with one uninfected partner, who is only having sex with you is the best way to protect yourself from HPV, or any other sexually transmitted disease.
  • Get regular Pap tests. The best time to get a Pap test is between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your last period.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet with sufficient fruits and vegetables. Carotene and vitamins C and E may reduce the risk of cervical and other cancers. Carotene is found in tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. You can get vitamin C by eating fruits, especially citrus fruits, and vegetables. The darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more vitamin C. Eat plenty of oranges, green and red peppers, broccoli, papayas, and strawberries. Good sources of vitamin E include oils such as safflower and corn, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds and nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts.(8)
  • Don’t smoke. The risk of cervical cancer is increased in those who smoke.
Do I still need regular pap tests if I've had the HPV vaccine?
Yes. Gardasil does not protect against less common HPV types not included in the vaccine, but also, cervical cancers can be caused by other factors as well. Routine and regular pap screening still remains critically important to detect any precancerous changes in the cervix and allow treatment before cervical cancer develops.(2)
References
(1)Advisory Panel Recommends HPV Vaccine from the American Cancer Society, May 2006
(2) FDA Licenses New Vaccine for Prevention of Cervical Cancer and Other Diseases in Females Caused by Human Papillomavirus, from the FDA, June 8, 2006
(3) Human Papilloma Virus and Genital Warts, NIAID Fact Sheet from the Nat'l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
(4) A Primer on HPV from the National Cancer Institute
(5) Understanding Cancer Series: HPV from the National Cancer Institute
(6) Abnormal Pap Test Results from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists
(7) How to Use a Condom from the American Social Health Association
(8) Human Papilloma Virus and Genital Warts from Womens Health.gov, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services

Find out more about human papillomavirus by calling the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 1-800-994-9662

Written by N Thompson, MSN, ARNP in collaboration with M Thompson, MD Internal Medicine, June 2006

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