The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to avoid getting infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). Because HPV is sexually transmitted, practicing safe sex and limiting the number of sexual partners can help reduce risk. A vaccine can protect against the major cancer-causing HPV strains in girls and young women who have not yet been exposed to the virus. Regular Pap tests remain the most effective way of catching cervical cancer while it is in its earliest precancerous stages and preventing the development of invasive cervical cancer.
Two vaccines are approved by the FDA to prevent either human papillomavirus (HPV) or cervical cancer: Gardasil and Cervarix.
Gardasil is approved for:
- Girls and women ages 9 - 26, for protection against HPV-16 and HPV-19, the HPV strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer. It also protects against HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause 90% of cases of genital warts.
- Boys and young men ages 9 - 26 years to prevent genital warts
Cervarix is approved for:
- Girls and women ages 10 - 26 for protection against HPV-16 and HPV-19, the HPV strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
- Cervarix does not protect against genital warts.
- Cervarix has not been approved for use in boys or men.
Two steps generally take place before any vaccine is widely used. First the FDA approves the vaccine. Next, organizations such as U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) make recommendations about who should routinely receive the vaccine.
Current immunization guidelines recommend:
Review Date: 10/21/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.