5 Reasons To Get The HPV Vaccine For You & Your Daughters Now!

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There’s been a lot of talk on cervical cancer recently, and a lot of awareness is being created around it. For those who don’t already know, cervical cancer affects women and is a cancer of the cervix, which is the mouth of the uterus. It is caused by a virus known as HPV or human papilloma virus. The good news is that there are vaccines available that can protect from this virus and reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

We spoke to an expert in this field, Dr Priya Ganeshkumar, Preventive Oncologist, Colposcopist, and Medical Director of Sainiwas Health Care to understand the urgency and importance of taking the vaccine and why us women shouldn’t delay taking it. Dr Priya is also the Chairperson of the Gynaecologic Oncology Committee, FOGSI as well as the Executive Member from India in AOFOG Cervical Cancer Elimination Program for 2023-2024. She gives us the following reasons to act NOW –

1. HPV is a very common virus – The HPV virus is a very commonly contracted virus. It spreads through skin-to-skin contact in both men and women. Select strains of this virus can lead to cancers such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Dr Priya says, “In fact, at least 50% women in the reproductive age group have HPV infection on their genitalia in their lifetime.”

2. HPV is a silent invader – Most times, the HPV infection does not show symptoms. However, in some cases, they may take the form of genital warts or abnormal cervical smears. If the HPV infection persists in the body over a longer time, it can cause changes in the cells of the cervix. “These changes are little atypical or dysplastic cells and are considered as pre- cancerous cells. It is important to note that these pre-cancerous cells are not cancer themselves but have the potential to develop into cancer. They are very symptomless. And unlike regular viral infection, there won’t be a fever or anything. There won’t be any white discharge either. So many times, people will not even know about it, unless regular screening is done,” shares Dr Priya. In many women, this infection clears on its own but if it persists it can develop into cancer. This is where the HPV vaccine can protect against this silent disease.

3. Prevention is better than cure – The old adage ‘Prevention is better than cure’ holds true when it comes to this virus. Just like other vaccinations like, the polio vaccine, BCG vaccine, etc. which we take to prevent diseases, the HPV vaccine should be on your list of vaccinations for you and your daughters. “You don’t want your child to suffer with cervical cancer and then with all those treatments – radiation, chemotherapy, surgery – which could

have been easily prevented by simply giving two shots,” points out Dr Priya. “Investing on the vaccine is a small sum, that we anyway spend recklessly and lavishly on so many other things. Instead, take that amount and give your daughters the gift of HPV vaccination,” she urges. And once the doses have been taken, you have given your child a lifelong cover against cervical cancer and in case one misses to take the vaccine at 15, it’s not too late. Since HPV infection peaks at one of the most productive period of a woman’s life between 15 and 25 years, more than 90% of women in the reproductive phase may still benefit from HPV vaccination.

4. The earlier the better – So when should the HPV vaccine be taken? Dr Priya says ideally, the window for taking the vaccination is between the ages 9-14, who are given two doses a few months apart. If you’ve missed this window, from ages 15 till 45 years, three doses are given a few months apart, for increased protection. “For those in the age group of 27 right until 45, the vaccination can still be taken, especially a woman in postpartum phase may be

vaccinated as she more vulnerable to catch HPV infection because of multiple attributes like thinning of cervical lining, hormonal imbalance, multiple vaginal deliveries etc,” says Dr Priya.

5. It is easy, mostly pain-free and has no side effects – Just like any other vaccination, this is given in the upper arm in the deltoid muscle. It’s like taking any other injection on the upper arm and is just a small injection prick. “We normally make the girl sit down, let her relax and we then give the shot, post which we sometimes make her wait a few minutes so she’s comfortable. There are no adverse effects as such whatsoever and I haven’t seen anyadverse reactions in my 30 years of practice,” concludes Dr Priya.

There you have it, straight from the expert. We urge you to speak to your gynaecologist and get more information on the HPV vaccine for yourself and your daughters today!

Issued in public interest in partnership with MSD Pharma. This information is for awareness only. Please consult your doctor for more information.

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