HPV stands for human papillomavirus and it causes 99% of all cases of cervical cancer. Here's the lowdown on the vaccine that aims to reduce that percentage.
HPV is sexually transmitted and is very common
What is it?
In 2008, a national programme was launched to vaccinate girls against HPV. The vaccine is most effective if it's given a few years before a girl becomes sexually active, so it's given to girls between the ages of 12 and 13.
It will help protect you from getting cancer of the cervix when you're older. About 3000 women get this every year in the UK.
What causes cancer?
Cancer of the cervix is caused by the HPV virus.
HPV is sexually transmitted and is very common - by the time you reach 50, about 80% of people will have HPV, but very few will have one of the types that cause cancer.
So will it stop me getting cancer?
No. That's because there are about 100 types of HPV - most cause no trouble at all. The vaccine makes cancer of the cervix less likely, but you still need to have smear tests when you're older, as it's not complete protection against cancer of the cervix.
Once vaccinated, you become immune from the two most serious types of HPV - which cause 70% of all cancer of the cervix.
Will the vaccine stop any other STIs?
No, it won't. Practicing safe sex is still a must.
What about warts?
Good question. Some types of HPV cause genital warts. These HPV types do not cause cancer. Unfortunately, the vaccine won't protect you from these. So warts are still possible.
Can't I just always use condoms and be safe that way?
Condoms are a great idea - the best protection we have against STIs. But HPV can be passed on even if we use a condom, so the vaccine is still necessary.
How do I get the vaccine?
It will probably be done at school. You need three injections, spaced out over six months, to be fully protected. The injection goes in your upper arm.
Can I say no if I don't want the injection?
Yes, it's not compulsory. Your parents must sign a consent form so discuss it with them if you're not sure.
Will it stop me getting pregnant?
No. It won't affect your chances of getting pregnant at all, so you'll still need to use contraception until you're ready for a baby.
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