Preventing HPV and Cervical Disease
There are two commercially available vaccines that help protect adolescents and women from HPV: Gardisil and Cervarix. Gardasil, administered in three injections over six months, is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, or for females aged 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series. This vaccine targets the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer (16 and 18), as well as the two strains of HPV that most commonly cause genital warts (6 and 11). Cervarix, which is FDA-approved for females aged 10 to 25, also is administered in a series of three shots and protects against two strains of HPV (16 and 18) that cause cervical cancer. Ideally, females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active, when they may be exposed to HPV.
These vaccines do not protect against all types of HPV; about 30 percent of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine. The vaccines also do not protect against other sexually transmitted infections, and cannot treat existing HPV. Therefore, it is still important for those who get the vaccines to continue regular screenings for cervical cancer through gynecological checkups and Pap tests.
Regular gynecological checkups, including a pelvic exam and Pap tests (link to above descriptions), will help detect any abnormal changes to the cervix as early as possible.