Nearly every case of cervical cancer, which usually takes many years to develop, is caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV; a virus that is spread through intimate contact during sex with someone who is infected.
There is a vaccine to protect young women against HPV and a recently released independent review has determined it is both safe and effective when given to women between the ages of 15 and 26.
Experts say the analysis by the Cochrane Group contains enough solid evidence to reassure parents who are considering having their daughters vaccinated against HPV.
Campaigners say the vaccine causes harm and some parents have said their daughters became unwell after receiving the vaccine.
For the review, the Cochrane Group looked at 26 trials worldwide involving more than 70,000 girls and women, and found that vaccinating girls before they have HPV is most effective, reducing their chances of getting pre-cancerous cells linked to the most dangerous strains – HPV16 and HPV18 – by 99%. The review also noted that serious side-effects following the vaccine were rare, notably that there was no increased risk of miscarriage or other serious adverse events in the years following vaccination.
“The Most Effective Way To Protect Against Cervical Cancer”
Speaking about the findings of the review, Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, said: “This study adds to the wealth of growing evidence from around the world which shows that the HPV vaccine is the most effective way for young girls to protect themselves against cervical cancer.
“Most women aged 15 to 25 years in the UK have now received the HPV vaccine.”
More than 3,000 women in the UK are affected by cervical cancer every year, with most cases diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 29.
Unfortunately, HPV infections are very common and many women don’t even know they are infected because there aren’t usually any symptoms.
In 2016, 815 women died of cervical cancer. A programme began 10 years ago to vaccinate schoolgirls aged 12 to 13 against HPV.
While many cases of HPV clear up on their own without causing any health issues, some women with the high-risk strains won’t successfully clear it and may develop cancer. Untreated, a third of high-grade cellular changes caused by HPV will lead to cervical cancer, which is why the NHS offers smear tests and the HPV vaccine to detect or prevent and treat any abnormalities.
At present, the NHS does not offer the HPV vaccine to women aged over 18. The jab should be given before an individual has come into contact with HPV.
The NHS advises that women between the ages of 25 and 64 should still undergo regular smears even if they have been immunised, as these can detect an HPV infection and any pre-cancerous cell changes that might need treating.
In some women, an HPV infection will persist and lead to cervical cancer. HPV vaccines protect against cervical cancer in young women, especially when the women are vaccinated between the ages of 15 and 26.
I joined Premier Choice Group as an SME/Corporate Consultant in 2017 and look after the Healthcare & Protection needs of a nationwide portfolio. I began my career in Healthcare and Protection in 1985 with BUPA, before moving on to Royal & Sun Alliance. In 2002, I became an Intermediary and worked with Private Clients, SME’s and Corporate clients on a local, national and international basis.