Cervical Cancer Treatment Vaccine

According to the American Cancer Society, there were 11,270 new cases of cervical cancer in 2009 in the United States, causing roughly 4,000 deaths. Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, in 2005 alone there were five hundred thousand new cases of cervical cancer.

Because cervical cancer often affects young women, it often has tragic consequences — for instance, leaving young children without a mother or rendering a young woman infertile. It’s also the leading cause of cancer death in women, even higher than breast cancer.

What Does this Vaccine for Cervical Cancer Do?

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is located at the back of the vagina and connects to the uterus.

Most cases of cervical cancer arise from certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread through sexual contact. Specifically, HPV-16 and HPV-18 cause about 75 percent of all cervical cancer cases. The popular Gardasil vaccine blocks those two cancer-causing HPV types, as well as HPV-6 and HPV-11.

Even with the Gardasil® vaccine, it’s still important to practice safe sex and use protection. And it may surprise you to know how prevalent this virus is — about 20 million people in the United States are affected. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by age 50 at least 80 percent of women will have had an HPV infection.

Don’t panic just yet — most women with an HPV infection don’t develop cervical cancer. The Gardasil® vaccine protects against the types of HPV that do lead to cancer.

Who Needs This Vaccine?

The Gardasil® vaccine is recommended for 11- to 12-year-old girls, although it can be given to girls as young as 9, or to women as old as 26. Why start so early? A girl’s immune system must be activated well before she comes in contact with this virus. Giving the vaccine at this young age also allows for the highest antibody levels, providing greater protection.

The Gardasil® vaccine is given in three injections over the course of six months. The CDC recommends a catch-up vaccine for women ages 13 to 26 who either haven’t been vaccinated, or who didn’t receive the full course of three injections the first time around.

According to Merck