In honor of January being National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Blessing Cancer Center in Quincy, Ill., encourages parents to speak with their family’s healthcare provider about the cancer-preventing vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

In honor of January being National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Blessing Cancer Center in Quincy, Ill., encourages parents to speak with their family’s healthcare provider about the cancer-preventing vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers, but can also lead to cancers of the anus, mouth/throat, penis, vagina, vulva, as well as genital warts.

Every year in the United States, 27,000 people get cancer caused by HPV. Despite the excellent safety record and efficacy of the HPV vaccines, getting people vaccinated has lagged in the United States.

The recommended age for vaccination is ages 11 to 12 for all boys and girls. This is the same age at which children receive the Tdap and meningococcal vaccinations to protect them from meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The Blessing Cancer Center recommends that all parents of pre-teens talk with their child’s provider if they have any questions about the vaccine.

The Blessing Cancer Center reported the following facts.

The HPV vaccine is safe. Most side effects related to the vaccine have been mild and similar to those seen with any other vaccine. Over 67 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed in the US.

The HPV vaccine does not interfere with fertility. Getting vaccinated and protecting against cervical cancer can help protect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have healthy babies.

The HPV vaccine does not contain harmful ingredients. Like hepatitis B and Tdap vaccines, HPV vaccines contain aluminum, which boosts the body’s immune response to the vaccine. In addition to certain vaccines, aluminum is found in breast milk, infant formula, antacids and numerous foods and beverages. Typical adults ingest 7 to 9 mgs of aluminum per day; whereas the HPV vaccine contains .225 mgs per dose. The HPV vaccines does not contain mercury.

The vaccine is necessary long before sexual activity starts. Younger people create more antibodies to the vaccine than those in their late teens, making it most effective at age 11 to 12.

The HPV vaccine is for males and females. Vaccination helps protect boys from getting infected with the most commons types of HPV that can cause cancers of the throat, penis, and anus; it also helps prevent most genital warts. In addition, when boys are vaccinated, they are less likely to spread HPV to their current or future partners.

The effectiveness of HPV vaccine protection is ongoing. The mechanism of immune memory has been demonstrated in women who have been vaccinated, indicated the vaccine will provide long-term immunity. If it’s discovered that immunity does wane, a booster may be recommended, similar to many other vaccines.

All woman are also encouraged to have regular Pap smears, which can detect precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix and opening to the uterus. According to the American Cancer Society, women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21. Women ages 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every three years. After age 30, that frequency can be every five years.