What is HPV?
HPV (Human Papiloma Virus) is a virus that infects both men and women. Often it will not cause any symptoms, but it can cause warts and verrucas. It can also cause papillomas which can develop into cancers particularly of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, throat and rectum. There are over 170 types but HPV types 16 & 18 are known to cause around 70% of cervical cancers and types 6 & 11 cause genital warts. There are no currents treatments for HPV, however 90% of people clear HPV infection within 2 yrs. Persistent infection in those who don’t clear the virus increases the risk of developing cancers.
What can I do to reduce the risk of cervical cancer?
There are a number of steps you can take to help reduce your chances of getting cancer of the cervix.
- Have regular smear tests from the age of 25 until 65.
- Consider using a male or female condom as well as your regular method of contraception, especially if you have more than one sexual partner, or if your partner has had many partners. These barrier methods of contraception may help to protect the cervix from infection, particularly from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- If you or your partner smoke, try to stop or at least cut down. Smoking may increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. Contact Quitline for further help and information on stopping smoking on 233170 or visit www.gsyquitline.com
From September 2008 all young girls, in year 8 at school, have been offered free Human Papilloma Virus vaccinations. This was initially with the ‘Cervarix’ vaccine and changed to the ‘Gardasil’ vaccine in 2012. Gardasil protects against the four most common strains of HPV (6, 11, 16 & 18) whereas Cervarix only protects against the two most common (16 & 18). More vaccines are being developed which will protect against even more strains of the HPV virus.
The program consists of 3 injections over 6 months.
Boys are not currently included in the program. Some other countries, such as Australia, already include boys as part of the routine immunisation schedule, however the UK has not included this as yet. If you would like to consider this, it can be provided on a private basis through your GP.
For further information on HPV go to www.immunisation.nhs.uk or contact your school nurse on 01481 725241 at Lukis House.
For those that have been vaccinated, it is very important that routine cervical screening continues.