Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cervarix: Cervical Cancer Vaccination FAQs

One of the latest development in our fight to prevent cancer is the recognition that certain infections can predispose a person to developing cancer later in life. I have written about the role of Human Papilloma Virus in the development of cervical cancer in an earlier post.

I have been getting many emails and phonecalls about Cervarix because of the recent media exposure, so I have compiled a list of the FAQs below:

Q: I am 20 this year and have been sexually active. Do I still need the vaccination?

A: The vaccination works on the premise that Cervical Cancer usually follows an infection of the cervix by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is transmitted during sexual intercourse, so the best time to have the vaccination is before the start of sexual activity so that we can prevent the infection from taking place.

However, there are several strains of the virus that causes Cervical Cancer and even though you have been sexually active, you might not have been exposed to all the strains, so it is still beneficial to get yourself vaccinated as the vaccine protects against several strains of the HPV.

Q: According to the brochure, this vaccination is for women between 10 to 25. I am 26 this year, does that mean I cannot take the vaccination?

A: As women get older, their chances of being exposed to the HPV increases so the cost effectiveness of the vaccine decreases. Actually the ideal age for vaccination is around 12 years of age before girls become sexually active. In fact, Britain has recently introduced mass vaccination for all girls between 12 to 13 years of age.

However, it does not mean that when you celebrate your 26th birthday, the vaccine suddenly becomes ineffective, as if something magical happens to your body when you turn 26. It is merely the age whereby our Ministry of Health has chosen based on the cost effectiveness of the vaccine. The age group may differ in different countries. In Malaysia for instance, the vaccine is recommended for women from 10 to 45 years of age. So what it really boils down to is for each individual patient to decide for themselves whether to take the vaccination.

Q: If I take the vaccination, does it mean I don't have to do my Pap Smears anymore?

A: No, you will still need to do your Pap Smear regularly because the vaccination only covers about 70% of the viruses that cause Cervical Cancer. It is by no means a 100% guarantee that you will never get Cervical Cancer but it does reduce your chances significantly.

Q: What is the vaccination schedule like?

A: The vaccination is given at 0, 1 and 6 months.

Q: Does the vaccination offer lifetime protection?

A: At the moment no one really knows yet because the vaccine is very new. It might turn out to have lifelong protection or they might find that a booster dose is required a few years after the first course of vaccination.

Q: How much does it cost to have the vaccination?

A: Each vaccination costs $210. Our clinic offers a package for all three jabs for $580 which includes the consultation fee and GST.

If you have further questions about this vaccination, please write to leslie.tay@gmail.com

8 comments:

idalene said...

Hi,

Would like to know before we take the jab for cervical vaccination, is there a cervical check to determine whether are we diagnosed with any HPV strains?

ieat said...

There are many HPV strains and we don't routinely screen patients for HPV.

saampat said...

Doctor,
How can I convince my mother to go for a full medical screening? She is 48 yrs old. She complained of having bouts of fever lately. The fever last a few hours. I asked her to go do a full screening but she said wait till she's 50. What can i do? She resisted the idea of even going for a simple dental check-up.

ieat said...

Yes it is tough for kids to talk to their parents at times. Perhaps you can get one of her trusted friends to convince her?

Sue said...

Sir, the vaccine and Pap Smear are for women who are of a certain age and are sexually active. If I only engage in homosexual sex, must i go for pap smear and the vaccine? The term, sexually active, means sex between a man and woman only?

Sue said...

Dr, please clear my doubts.

ieat said...

Yes it is still advisable for you to go for the vaccine because it can also be transmitted in other ways.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doc,

Would like to check with you if i can try to conceive once i have completed the 3 doses of cervarix? Or is there a window period which i should wait before trying to conceive after the 3 doses?

Please advise. Thanks in advance.