Here’s what you need to know about the HPV vaccine

Sentara participated in the first  HPV Awareness week, which ran Jan. 22-28.

The American Medical Women’s Association organized the event and the purpose was to help educate the community of HPV’s link to cancer.

Here’s what you need to know about HPV and preventing it:

What is HPV?

While medical issues surrounding HPV are becoming more well-known, it might be surprising to learn HPV is actually the leading cause of mouth and throat cancer, according to Sentara.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and can cause serious health problems, including several different types of cancers.

HPV is linked to 70 percent of all mouth and throat cancer cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

Sentara said HPV is a prevalent virus in the Hampton Roads community.

So much so that Sentara Healthcare applied for and received a grant from the American Cancer Society to better educate the community on prevention, vaccination and health issues associated with the virus.

Prevention

Dr. Daniel Karakla, head and neck surgeon at the Sentara EVMS Comprehensive Head and Neck Center, said he wants people to understand the HPV vaccine is safe and is essentially a cancer-preventing vaccine.

He said there is a bit of stigma associated with the HPV vaccine because the most common way of transmission being through sexual contact.

He wants pediatricians, parents and just about everyone else to understand the vaccine can not only prevent people from getting the HPV virus but also prevent that virus from turning into a throat or mouth cancer.

As of right now the vaccine is administered to boys and girls starting at age 11 through 26.

The shot, most commonly known as the Gardasil Vaccine, comes in two doses which means patients get two shots six to 12 months apart, he said.

While only a small minority of people can get cancer from the HPV virus, it is estimated that around 80 million people are currently infected with HPV, according to the CDC.

Wearing a condom won’t protect you from the HPV virus as it can happen during any kind of sexual contact —  Karakla said getting the HPV vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the virus.

“We want to get the word out about this vaccine,” he said.

To learn more about HPV and the Gardasil vaccine, click here.

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