There is a new vaccine available called Gardasil that can prevent cervical cancer from ever starting. What the vaccine does is it targets strains of the HPV (human papilloma virus), a sexually transmitted virus, that cause 70% of cervical cancers.
Most women have HPV and don’t even realize it. Pap tests help with early detection but even so, the disease still kills thousands of women each year.
HPV usually clears up on its own without any symptoms but it is capable of causing cellular changes that lead to cancer in some women. It is important that girls have the vaccine before they become sexually active since 80% of women will develop HPV sometime in their lives.
Gardasil is approved for females ages 9 – 26. It is being studied in men and older women. The Gardasil vaccine is given as three shots over a several month period. Because of the spacing between shots, there are no known adverse side effects.
Gardasil does not protect against all of the strains of HPV so it is still important for women to continue getting their yearly Pap tests.