Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
It is most common in men and women in their late teens and early twenties. Because there are no symptoms for many types of HPV, it's easily transmitted. HPV can lead to cervical, mouth and throat cancer.
Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, is given to children as young as nine. Stimulating the immune response through the vaccine can protect kids before they commence sexual activity. Boys and girls who are 11 or 12 should be vaccinated twice, six months apart. If your child isn’t vaccinated until age 15, three vaccines are needed at six months apart. It can be given as late as 23 years old, but will not cure any earlier exposure to HPV.
A Pap smear is a test to look for early signs of cervical cancer. It is recommended that the first Pap now be done at 21. Based on individual health and sexual activity, Pap tests should be performed every two to three years. Adults who have not been vaccinated are likely to test positive for HPV due to unprotected sexual intercourse. The type of HPV exposure (low or high risk) is undetermined with a positive result.
Talking to Your Child About HPV
Taking every opportunity you can to talk about health, wellness or safety with your child goes a long way. It can be a short chat during an activity. Start talking to your child as early as you can to normalize discussions.
Listen as Dr. Margaret Stager joins Melanie Cole, MS, to discuss the importance of the HPV vaccine.