The rate of HPV (human papilloma virus) in American female teenagers has dropped more than 60 percent since Gardasil was introduced in 2006, according to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics.

In the last decade, the HPV vaccine has made a measurable impact on young women’s health, particularly to those aged 14 to 19 who could have been susceptible to HPV without the vaccine. At PGOMG, we recommend that young women (and young men!) receive Gardasil between ages 16 to 18, though it can be administered to preteens as young as 11.

Is Gardasil safe?

Despite the myths about the HPV vaccine, Gardasil is safe. The vaccine will not give HPV to anyone who receives it, the vaccine does not encourage sexual activity, and it does not replace the need for condoms during sexual intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy and protect against STDs.

How does Gardasil protect against cancer?

Gardasil immunizes against HPV, which is linked to a disturbing 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. HPV is also linked to other kinds of cancer, including oral cancer and other cancers in the genital area, such as cancer of the anus, vagina, penis, or vulva. Patients should note that not every strain of HPV is prevented by the vaccine.

How do I contract HPV?

HPV is contracted through sexual contact. Condoms are necessary to prevent against STDs, but they cannot fully protect a person from contracting HPV. HPV is acquired from skin-to-skin contact, and a condom does not cover the entire genital area, even when used properly. The HPV vaccine is the recommended way to guard young women and men against contracting HPV.

How can I tell if someone else has HPV?

HPV is asymptomatic, which means that there are no visible symptoms of the disease. However, some patients with HPV may develop genital warts.

Who is at risk for contracting HPV?

Your risk for contracting HPV is high if you are sexually active and did not receive the vaccine. The risk of contracting HPV, the risk of contracting other STDs, or chances of becoming pregnant increases significantly without proper contraception such as condoms. Young people are most at risk for HPV, which is why the recommended age range is so wide, starting at age 11 up to age 26.

If you would like to learn more about Gardasil or if you wish to schedule an appointment to receive the HPV vaccine, please contact PGOMG.