What you need to know about HPV and HPV vaccination

HPV and HPV vaccinations explained

HPV is a primary concern among sexually active women in Singapore. You may be aware that it is linked with cervical cancer. If you are worried you may want to look into vaccination. Here we will explore all that HPV giving you the insight you need to make informed decisions.

Frequently asked questions on HPV

1. WHAT EXACTLY IS HPV?

HPV is an acronym for Human Papilloma Virus.

Approximately 75 -80% of persons will contract the HPV infection during their lifetime. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. It is highly contagious and transmitted by contact with the genital area and afflicted skin.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HPV?

Yes, there are more than 100 strands of HPV, and 40 of these affect your genital area. Most people will recover from the virus without treatment.
Unfortunately, there are those who become infected with a high-risk strand of HPV and are unable to get rid of it. If left untreated, this virus will cause cell mutation and cancerous abnormal tissue growth. High-risk HPV strands are linked to the following cancers

cervical cancer
-vaginal cancer
-vulval cancer
-anal cancer
-Penile cancer
-some cancers that affect the neck and head

Some HPV viruses can cause:
-skin warts and verrucas – These do not affect the genital area
-voice box or vocal cords warts (laryngeal papillomas)
-genital warts -These are the most widespread viral STDs in Singapore. Genital warts manifest as skin changes and small growths in the genital and anal area.

2. HOW RAMPANT IS HPY IN SINGAPORE?

The estimated statistics for Singapore state that 1 in 10 healthy women have HPV and unfortunately most of us are unaware.
You can exhibit no symptoms for years and unknowingly spread the virus to sexual partners.

3. WHAT ARE THE HPV INFECTION SYMPTOMS?

Most of the time, people infected by HPV do not exhibit symptoms.

HPV can present itself as various types of warts.

Genital warts

Appearance-small bump or cluster of bumps; small or large, cauliflower-shaped; white or flesh color
Affected body parts-vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum, anus, and groin.

Flat warts

  • Appearance-flat-topped, slightly raised lesions, darker than normal skin tone
  • Affected age bracket- children, adolescents, and young adults
  • Affected body parts-neck, face or areas have been scratched

Common warts

Appearance- raised rough bumps
Affected body parts-hands, fingers, and elbows.

Plantar warts

Appearance- grainy hard growths on feet
Affected body parts- heels and balls of feet

Cancer

Even though cancer is a disease in itself, HPV can increase the risk of developing the following cancers
-Cervix
-Vulva
-Vagina
-Penis
-Anus
-Oropharynx

4. HOW DOES HPV BRING ABOUT CERVICAL CANCER?

HPV invades the cells of your cervix, causing cell mutation that in turn causes inflammation. While sometimes your body can fight off the HPV virus, if left unchecked it can result in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical cancer.

CIN is the abnormal growth of cells on your cervix and a precursor to cervical cancer.

5. HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM HPV AND CERVICAL CANCER?

Your best course of action to protect yourself from HPV and cervical cancer is to start doing regular pap smears once you become sexually active.
It is also a good idea to get vaccinated against HPV. However, you should still undergo routine pap smears every 3 years to screen for cervical cancer.

A pap smear is a procedure by which tissue samples are taken from the lining of the cervix to check for abnormalities. It is a quick and relatively painless process where Your doctor will with the aid of medical swab, obtained the cervical cells.

Read more about Pap smear over here.

WHAT IS THE HPV VACCINE?
The HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer. The newest HPV vaccination helps safeguard you from 9 major strains of HPV:

  • HPV 1
  • HPV 6
  • (Types 1 and 6 are responsible for 90% of genital warts)
  • HPV 16
  • HPV 18
  • HPV 31
  • HPV 33
  • HPV 45
  • HPV 52
  • HPV 58

(HPV types 16-58 listed above cause up to 90% of cervical, vaginal, and vulva cancers in women.

6. WHY ARE THE HPV VACCINE & GARDASIL 9 SINGAPORE SO IMPORTANT?

According to current statistics, the 3rd most prevalent cancer, causing deaths in women age 15-44 years old in Singapore is cervical cancer.
Your cervical cancer risk is increased by the following factors:

  • -Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • -Smoking
  • -Multiple sexual partners

8. AM I FULLY PROTECTED AGAINST ALL STRAINS OF HPV AFTER VACCINATION?

HPV vaccination ( Gardisil 9 and HPV vaccine) only protects against the above mentioned 9 major strains of HPV.
Regrettably, 100 strains of HPV have been discovered.

9. IS VACCINATION COMPULSORY?

While you are encouraged to take the HPV vaccines as prevention against cervical cancer, it is not compulsory.

10. WHEN SHOULD A PERSON GET THE HPV VACCINE?

Children can get the vaccine as early as 11 or 12. They can be vaccinated later. However, they should be vaccinated before becoming sexually active.

11. CAN I GET THE HPV VACCINE AFTER I BECOME SEXUALLY ACTIVE?

Of course, you can! However, women who may have already been exposed to HPV may only have partial protection.

12. ARE PAP SMEARS NECESSARY AFTER HPV VACCINATION?

Yes, they are. Your HPV vaccination will only protect you against only 70% cervical cancer cases. There is still a very real risk factor after vaccination.
Regular pap smears and HPV screening test are still the tools in your arsenal against cervical cancer.

13. ARE HPV VACCINES WORTH IT?

Yes, they are. They offer a measure of protection to both children and adults from certain cancers, STDs, and HPV related diseases.

14. HOW IS THE HPV VACCINE ADMINISTERED?

HPV vaccines are given as a 3 dose course over a 6 month period.
Depending on the age, younger adolescent patients will receive only 2 doses.

15. ARE BOOSTER SHOTS GIVEN?

No additional doses or boosters are required at this time.

16. ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO THE HPV VACCINATION?

You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Itchy redness at the injection site

On a rare occasion, you may experience:

  • fever or flu-like symptoms
  • headache
  • If you experience any side effects, please contact your doctor.

17. WHO SHOULD NOT BE VACCINATED?

You might not be suitable for vaccination if you have any of these issues:

  • Sensitivity to yeast or to any of the vaccine components
  • Moderate or severe acute infectious illness (you need to recover from your illness before you can consider vaccination)
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Use blood thinners

Speak to your doctor for more advice!

18. IS HPV VACCINATION SAFE DURING PREGNANCY?

The HPV vaccine does not contain live cultures so it cannot cause infection.
However, a woman should wait until after pregnancy to get vaccinated. If a woman becomes pregnant during her vaccination course she should stop until after delivery.

19. SHOULD I GET VACCINATED IF I AM OVER 26 YEARS OLD?

According to FDA, the HPV 9-valent vaccine is approved for both males and females who are 27 to 45 years of age.

20. HOW LONG DOES THE HPV VACCINE LAST?

The vaccine works for at least 10 years. However, studies show that you may be protected against HPV protection for much longer than that.

As you can tell HPV has the potential to cause serious harm. However, you can protect yourself by vaccination. Prevention is certainly the way forward with this virus since vaccination will not treat an infection.
If you have any concerns, speak to us for further advice!

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