The most common sexually-transmitted disease, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), causes genital warts and is responsible for the onset of cervical cancer. The virus has many sub-types; the benign ones cause genital warts and the more aggressive sub-types infect the cervix, creating pre-cancerous and cancerous changes over time. The majority of cervical cancers are caused by HPV sub-types 16 and 18, while sub-types 6 and 11 are the culprits for genital warts.
An awareness campaign was launched recently touting protection from HPV with Gardasil, a non-infectious, DNA-derived vaccine for HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18. The vaccine is recommended for females age 9 to 26, and research has shown it to be very effective for preventing cervical dysplasia, a pre-cancerous condition and cervical cancer itself.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have reviewed available research findings and view Gardasil as safe for preventing the four aforementioned types of HPV. In fact, of the 24 million doses of Gardasil administered through May 2009, a miniscule percentage of patients reported adverse effects and 93 percent of those were considered mild to moderate, such as injection site pain, headache, nausea and fever. Some patients have fainted after receiving the vaccination, so a patient should be observed for 15 minutes following the injection.
Females who receive the Gardasil vaccine must remember it does not protect from other forms of sexually-transmitted diseases, including additional sub-types of HPV, nor is it a form of birth control. Patients who have questions about preventing sexually-transmitted diseases and whether they are candidates for Gardasil should consult with their family physician or gynecologist.
Dr. Michael Urig is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call Urig’s Ahwatukee Foothills office, (480) 759-9191.