Should your daughter receive the cervical cancer vaccine? The American Cancer Society estimates that there were 12,360 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in 2014, and 4,020 women died from cervical cancer. Learn about the vaccine for cervical cancer below.
Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. In fact, the CDC says that HPV is so common that almost every sexually active man or woman will get one form of HPV at some point in their life.
There are two FDA-approved vaccines that prevent against cervical cancer: Gardasil (for girls) and Cervavix (for boys). Both can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if administered before the woman is exposed to the virus. Both Gardasil and Cervavix can prevent against vaginal and vulvar cancer in women as well, and Gardasil can prevent against genital warts and anal cancer in both women and men.
The cervical cancer vaccines are recommended for girls and boys from ages 11 to 12, but they can be administered as early as age nine. The key to these vaccines is that you must get them before you have sexual contact or exposed to HPV, because it does not treat an already existing strand of HPV, it only prevents against contracting certain types of HPV.
>> Read more: Does Your Son Need the HPV Vaccine?
For those who are older than 12 and haven't received the vaccine, they can still receive it up to age 26. The reason the vaccine is administered at such a young age is so that your child gets it before he or she is sexually active, and it cuts down on the awkward guesswork for when you think they will become sexually active. The vaccine is given as a series of three injections over a six-month time period.
Gardasil and Cervavix prevent against only four out of the 100 strands of HPV, but those four are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts. The cervical cancer vaccine prevents against HPV 6, HPV 11, HPV 16 and HPV 18.
Some parents have raised concerns with the vaccine because it doesn't have a long track record of success. Because it was developed in 2006, the vaccine is relatively young and there could be unintended problems that have not yet come up.
Some parents are also concerned because some states are starting to require the vaccine for middle-school girls, which parents see as an infringement on their parental rights. Parents can opt out of the mandate by reading the vaccine literature and signing a waiver.
Parents also hesitate to give their daughter the vaccine because they worry that it might give her a false sense of security or that it could even subtly encourage sexual activity. Important aspects to remember and tell your daughter, however, are that the vaccine only protects against the four strands of HPV that lead to cervical cancer, and that it offers no protection from HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes and other STDs.
Whether or not your daughter receives the Gardasil shot, it is important for her to still get her annual pap smear once she becomes sexually active.
>> Read more: Your Yearly Gyno Appointment