The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to various cancers. Five years ago, the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 was approved for use in men and women ages 9 through 26. Now, the FDA has extended the vaccine to be given to those up to the age of 45.
Doctor Trung “Tim” Nguyen is the Director of Gynecologic Oncology at UCSF Fresno. He explains how common it is to contract the human papillomavirus.
“It’s quite common. In fact, the estimated about half of sexually active Americans carry HPV,” said Dr. Nguyen.
In fact, Dr. Nguyen said if you’ve ever been sexually active, you’ve likely been exposed to HPV. It’s a virus with various strains. Some strains are more difficult for the immune system to fight off and HPV can lead to certain cancers.
Dr. Nguyen continued, “Cervical cancer, which is the most common HPV-related cancer followed by vaginal cancer, vulva cancer, the anal general area also affected by HPV.”
There is a vaccine however, to prevent certain strains of HPV. Gardisil 9 has been available in the United States since 2014 and was given to patients aged 9 through 26 years old.
“The vaccine can reduce the rate of infection, reduce the, specifically for cervical cancer in women, that decrease significantly the rate of precancerous disease which ultimately can lead to cancer,” said Dr. Nguyen.
But the guidelines have now changed. In Cctober of 2018, the FDA approved a supplemental application for Gardisil 9, expanding the approved use of the vaccine to men and women aged 27 to 45. Dr. Nguyen shares what he has heard from many patients.
He stated that he has heard, “‘I am 27 or 28 and I feel like this vaccine can benefit me, I feel like I am a little bit low risk and I think that I could potentially benefit from this vaccine’.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14 million Americans become infected with HPV every year. Dr. Nguyen said he hopes everyone gets vaccinated to bring the HPV cases down, which he believes will also lower the cervical cancer rates in the country. He recommends children get vaccinated as early as 11 or 12 years old.
“It is very important to get the vaccine at the age before sexual encounter occur. That will give us the best protections,” ended Dr. Nguyen.