Patient Handout

Advance for Nursing • January 2017

ADVANCE FOR NURSING • January 2017 • 29 Early HPV Prevention What is HPV? Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection, or STI. “There are over 150 different types of HPV, 40 of which are spread through sexual contact,” said Donna Kuhn, MSN, CRNP, a GYN oncology specialist at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa. With more than 150 related viruses, the HPV virus can show itself in many forms. A common symptom of HPV is the appearance of warts, or papillomas, around the genital area or the throat and neck area. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. HPV, which is transmitted by intimate skin-to-skin contact, can be spread between any sexually active pair, even if they are monogamous. The virus is the most common STI and nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most people will not experience any signs or symptoms of HPV and the virus will usually go away on its own. However, signs or symptoms can appear years after contracting the virus, which is why it’s so important to be aware of the infection and to be prepared. Why is Vaccinating for HPV Important? Vaccines can prevent infection from the most common types of HPV. The vaccines are also safe and effective, protecting male and female patients from the illness and cancers caused by HPV. “Vaccinations, in general, are important to decrease the spread of disease,” said Kuhn. “Originally, when the HPV vaccine came out, it was intended to be given to just girls ages 9 through 26. Now it has been opened up to boys as well, knowing that they, too, are affected by the virus.” The HPV vaccine is given in two or three shots over a six month period. The CDC recently recommended a two-shot regimen for patients under the age of 15. • Gardasil protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. • The second shot, Gardasil 9, protects against five additional HPV types, while acting as a booster for types 16 and 18. • Cervarix fights against HPV types that cause cervical cancer and is only administered to patients who have a uterus. The recommended age for boys and girls to get vaccinated is around 11 or 12 years of age. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26. What is Cervical Cancer? Kuhn described cervical cancer as a cancer that grows in the lower part of a uterus in the cervix. She said it was once the most common form of cancer in women. Cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer-related death in women, but the rate of invasive cervical cancer has dropped more than 50% in the last 40 years. Vaccines have played a pivotal role in this drop. Though men cannot be diagnosed with cervical cancer, males are still at risk for contracting HPV. Kuhn said, “The HPV vaccine is instrumental in decreasing the risk of women developing cervical cancer. Although men are not affected in that way with the HPV virus, they are carriers of the virus, and therefore put other people at risk for cancer through exposure.” The virus can also lead to a number of other cancers, including throat, penile, and anal, which can affect men. Points to Remember: • Both men and women are at risk for contracting HPV at some point in their lifetime. • Most often, HPV will go away on its own, and the virus may not always show signs and symptoms. But it is important to remember that signs and symptoms can occur years after contracting the virus. • Women are at risk for cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer and throat and neck cancer. • Men are at risk for penile cancer, anal cancer and throat and neck cancer. • HPV vaccines are safe and effective methods of preventing HPV and fighting against cancers caused by this most common STI. Autumn Heisler is on staff. Contact her at: aheisler@advanceweb.com. By Autumn Heisler NOTES: Patient Handout Thinkstock


Advance for Nursing • January 2017
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