By Todd Chappell, MD
Gardasil® is one of the more exciting medical advances that has come about in the past decade due to its ability to help prevent future cancers. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus known to cause cancers of the cervix (the bottom part of the uterus, or womb), including cervical, vaginal, and anal cancers, as well as genital warts. Unlike other STDs, though, about 9 out of 10 people will be exposed to this virus at some point in their lifetime. As with other vaccinations, Gardasil is given in order to help train your immune system to fight against the virus. When the original Gardasil vaccination was approved in 2006, it covered four different strains of HPV – the two most common that cause genital warts and the two most likely to cause cervical cancer. Last year, a new vaccination, Gardasil 9, was FDA approved. Five further strains of HPV that cause cancer were added to the vaccination.
The vaccination is given as a series of three injections, with the second dose one to two months after the first, and the third dose six months after the first. Gardasil is recommended for both male and female patients between the ages of 9 and 26. The vaccine should not be given to pregnant women or anyone who has had a very severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) to a vaccine in the past. As with any vaccination, there can be minor side effects, such as a local inflammatory response or pain at the site of injection, low-grade fever, or headache. Your doctor might also use another form of HPV vaccination called Cervarix that was approved in 2009 and protects against the two most-common strains that cause cervical cancer. For more information regarding HPV vaccinations, ask your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
Dr. Todd Chappell is an OB-GYN with Adams Patterson Gynecology & Obstetrics. For an appointment call (901) 767-3810 or visit their website at adamspatterson.com.