HPV VaccineThe most common cause of cervical cancer is human papilloma virus (HPV). The United States Congress has designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Screening Month. If detected at an early stage, the disease can be treated relatively easily.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight million women aged 21 to 65 years have not been screened for cervical cancer in the past five years. An ideal way to prevent this type of cancer is to get vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes most cases of cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 to 12, although girls as young as 9 may receive the vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Gardasil 9 (Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant) for the prevention of certain diseases caused by nine types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This new vaccine has the potential to prevent approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. This vaccine is approved for use in females’ ages 9 through 26 and males ages 9 through 15.

Manufactured by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., this vaccine is administered as three separate shots, with the initial dose followed by additional shots given two and six months later.

A clinical study was conducted in the U.S. and globally covering about 14,000 females ages 16 through 26 who tested negative for vaccine HPV types. Participants received either Gardasil (previously approved by the FDA) or Gardasil 9. Gardasil 9 was determined to be 97 percent effective in preventing cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers caused by the five additional HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52, and 58). Based on similar antibody responses in participants in clinical studies, Gardasil 9 was found to be as effective as Gardasil for the prevention of diseases caused by the four shared HPV types (6, 11, 16, and 18).

Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care. Simple and effective screening tests include the Pap test and the FDA-approved Roche cobas HPV test which simultaneously detects 14 high-risk HPV types. While the Pap test detects abnormalities in cervical cells even before they become cancerous, the HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.