HPV is an extremely common virus in sexually active adults. There are may different strains of the virus. Strains 6 and 11 could cause genital warts and strains 16 and 18 are the strains that could lead to cancer, most notably, cervical cancer, which is the 2nd most common and most lethal malignancy in women worldwide. Other strains of HPV are harmless and may go away on their own.
HPV could affect any of the following body parts: the cervix, vulva, vagina, and the penis, scrotum, and urethra. It could also affect the perianal, anal and oropharyngeal cavity.
The recommended age for the HPV vaccine is 11 or 12 years old, but your child can receive their HPV vaccine up until age 26. The ideal time to receive the HPV vaccine is BEFORE your child engages in sexual activity. This will dramatically reduce their chances of acquiring the virus.
Here are some common parental concerns about the HPV vaccine:
1. My child is only 11 years old and I don’t want to think about her/him having sex just yet (or ever).
Yes, 11 years old is a young age to think about “sex” and “my child”, but giving them the HPV vaccine doesn’t mean they are going to have sex right now. Figuring out your sex life as a teenager was challenging, and our parents were the last people we went to for advice about sex or love. Although it may be uncomfortable to think about, your child will inevitably grow into adolescence. Why not protect them as much as you can now, before they grow into that period of isolation and get to distance themselves from you?
2. How does it work?
The HPV vaccine uses small pieces of the actual HPV virus to generate an immune response in the body. The small pieces aren’t potent enough to give someone HPV, though. They are just the right size to allow the body to neutralize the virus with the body’s own protective forces (our immune system). The mechanism of action is very similar to other vaccines that already are safely administered to children.
3. If I have a boy, does he need his HPV vaccine as well?
Yes, absolutely and DEFINITELY! Boys can carry the virus and spread it to their male or female partners through vaginal or anal sex. Not only would giving your son the HPV vaccine help prevent the spread of cancer, but it would protect them as well since the virus can affect their scrotum, penis, urethra, anus and throat!
We are finally making progress with cancer research and have a vaccine that could prevent cancer in your child, so why not take advantage of your child’s health while you still can?
Learn more by watching my full video on HPV here:
Kasper, Dennis, et al. Harrisons Principles of Internal Medicine. McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
The following post was contributed by Olivia Richman, the brains and personality behind the up-and-coming youtube channel GlamourPuss, M.D. The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.