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Cervical Cancer Vaccine


Cervical Cancer

To understand the cervical cancer vaccine, you must first understand the disease itself. In this section, we'll tell you about the causes of cervical cancer and how it can be prevented.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb), which extends into the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is fairly common, claiming the lives of almost 300,000 women worldwide each year. However, the death rate from the disease has decreased 50 percent over the past 50 years or so, largely because of early diagnosis.

While early cervical cancer has no symptoms, it can be detected by means of a Pap smear. A Pap smear is part of a routine gynecological exam that involves scraping the surface of the cervix. The collected material is then tested for indications of cancer. Today, two out of three cases of cervical cancer are detected with this test before symptoms occur.

Women are far more likely to develop cervical cancer if they have had a sexually transmitted viral infection, such as genital warts or herpes; if they begin having sexual intercourse before age 18; or if they have had many sexual partners. A particularly aggressive type of cervical cancer appears in HIV-positive women.

If a Pap smear indicates the possibility of cervical cancer, a biopsy of the affected area will likely be done. Once the disease has been diagnosed, treatment depends on how far the cancer has advanced; early forms are almost always curable by surgery.

If a patient still hopes to bear children and the cancer is in an early stage, this surgery can sometimes be put off until children have been born. However, this is possible only if the disease does not seem to be progressing, and the cancer must be monitored carefully during this phase. The uterus should be removed eventually.

Cervical cancer is a significant worldwide health threat, and a vaccine capable of eradicating the disease would save thousands of lives. One of the first points we should clarify about Gardasil is that it is not exactly designed to prevent cancer. Women who have had sexually transmitted viral infections like genital warts are much more likely to develop cervical cancer. In actuality, Gardasil prevents these sexually transmitted diseases, referred to in the medical community as human papilloma virus, or HPV.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

Human papilloma virus is actually the name for a group of more than 100 viruses. Some of them lead to benign warts on the hands and feet, some cause genital warts, and some result in cervical cancer. More than 30 percent of the viruses commonly referred to as "HPV" are sexually transmitted diseases, and most times the infection can be cleared up with minor health consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year, and 50 percent of sexually active adults acquire an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

While most cases of HPV will clear up on their own, there are some more persistent, "high-risk," varieties that are the main risk factor for cervical cancer. The longer these viruses remain in a woman's body, the greater the risk that infected cells will become cancerous. HPV is far and away the primary cause of cervical cancer. Just two of the strains of HPV are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases worldwide. Naturally, if you can prevent HPV, you can go a long way in preventing cervical cancer.

According to the FDA, a drug has been created that can do just that. In the next section, we will learn more about Gardasil.

 

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