What is a cervical cancer vaccine?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines to prevent HPV infection: Gardasil® and Cevarix®. Both cervical cancer vaccines prevent infection with two high-risk HPV strains, which cause nearly 70 percent of cervical cancers. Gardasil also prevents infection with two HPV strains that cause nearly 90 percent of genital warts.
The cervical cancer vaccines are given in a series of three injections over six months. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the vaccine for girls ages 11 to 12. This allows the immune system to develop antibodies before likely exposure to HPV.
Vaccine for cervical cancer
There is currently debate about whether the vaccine is beneficial for women over age 18, who have likely been exposed to HPV. The CDC recommends "catch-up" vaccines for girls and women up to age 26. The American Cancer Society recommends catch-up vaccines for girls up to age 18.
The vaccine does not prevent about 30 percent of cervical cancers. As a result, routine Pap testing is important for all women. Talk with your doctor about what type of prevention and screening methods are right for you.