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Human papillomavirus, or HPV, refers to several hundred different types of viruses that can cause skin warts. Approximately 40 HPVs are considered to be sexually transmitted diseases, and of these 40, about 12 are linked with increased risks of different types of cancer. Many times, HPV doesn’t cause any symptoms, so infected people pass it on to their partners without even knowing they have it. Fortunately, the HPV vaccine is now available for young girls and boys and can dramatically decrease future cancer risks for those who receive it. A gynecologist can help you determine if the vaccine is right for your child. These facts will also help.

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine provides protection against four types of sexually transmitted HPV, including those types responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of cases of genital warts. The vaccine also protects against HPV strains that are associated with anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV vaccines are inactivated, which means that no live viruses are included in the vaccine.

Who should get the vaccine?

For girls, the HPV vaccine should be administered before they become sexually active, so that there is no risk of them having the virus already. A pediatrician or gynecologist may recommend giving the virus to girls between ages 11 and 12, but it is safe for girls as young as nine. Boys can receive a version of the vaccine, called HPV4, between ages nine and 26.

What are the benefits?

The HPV vaccine is not a type of contraception and does not encourage sexual activity, which are fears some parents have. The vaccine simply prevents infections when recipients do become sexually active that could later turn into cancer. According to the American Cancer Institute , nearly all cases of cervical cancer, 95% of anal cancer cases, and 65% of vaginal cancer cases are caused by HPV infections, and a vast majority of these cases could be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

Make an appointment at Washington Surgi-Clinic if you have questions about the HPV vaccine, STD testing, and HPV treatment in Washington, D.C. Please call (202) 659-9403 to schedule your visit.