Cervical cancer can be prevented in more than 90% of the cases
Though majority of the HPV infections are asymptotic and automatically clears out from the immune system within sometime, but persistent infections may lead to certain pre-cancerous changes in the cervix which may gradually progress into cervical cancer.
As the protection from HPV is long lasting, timely administration is must and should be provided in the right age. It is also advised for a regular cervical cancer screening for those with a family history of the condition and timely vaccinations even for those in the early stages of cervical cancer, as the vaccine also aids in protection against various other HPV infections.
Who all should take the HPV & when?
HPV Vaccinations are given (in inactivated forms) as a prevention for four major types of HPV infections. The HPV vaccines are licensed for girls and women in the age bracket of 9 years to 45 years of age, administered in 3 shots with a time interval of 6 months. Having a better immune response the ideal age for administering HPV vaccine is adolescence. Such vaccinations are highly safe and effective in preventing the risk of developing cervical cancers.
When the vaccine is administered before the age of 14 years, then a gap of 6 months to one year between two doses is sufficient. But in case if the vaccine is taken after 14 years, then three doses are required. When three doses are needed to be administered, the second dose is given after 1-2 months of first dose, and the third should be given atleast after six months of the first dose.
There are three types of HPV vaccines available, namely –
Cervarix – This vaccine helps in protecting against type 16 and type 18 of HPV, which is a prime factor for causing HPV cancers.
Gardasil – This vaccine helps in protecting against four types of HPV including Type 16, type 18, type 31 and type 33.
Gardasil 9 – As the name suggests this vaccine helps in protecting against 9 various types of HPV namely type 6, type 11, type 16, type 18, type 31, type 33, type 45, type 52 and type 58.
HPV Vaccination is a must administration, as it helps in prevention of infections caused due to HPV. As most of the HPV infections are asymptotic and do not show any persistent symptoms in the early stages, still it is necessary to get vaccinated to prevent the burden of preventable cervical cancer cases. Being a sexually transmitted infection, HPV gradually affects the cervix and can also lead to vaginal and vulvar cancer if not detected timely. Widespread immunisation can, not only reduce the number of cases but also eliminates the impact of such types of cancers. In addition to this, it also helps in the prevention of genital warts and anal cancer in both men and women.
Prevalence of cervical cancer – Indian Scenario
According to the recent data provided by Globocan 2020 India Factsheet, Cervical cancer is the third most common types of cancer accounting for around 18.3% cases of all cancers in women and 9.3% of the cases in both men and women. It is also estimated that one woman dies of cervical cancer every 7 minutes in India. As per the records, over 1,23,907 new cases of cervical cancer have been registered last year with around 78,000 casualties. The mortality rate due to cervical cancer in India ranks second, attributing for 10% of overall cancer related deaths. Though the average survival rate without treatment is less than 50% for 5 years, timely vaccinations and regular screening can produce better outcomes and improve the quality and survival of life.
The vaccination is not only restricted to girls and women, but boys should also be administered until the age of 21 years (as per the dosage) which may prevent transmission of the virus among women. There are various types of HPV which is linked to other cancers such as throat, mouth and oral cancers. So HPV vaccination is likely to provide protection and helps in prevention of these cancers too.
The writer is Sr Consultant Medical Oncology, Max Superspeciality Hospital, Vaishali.