MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — HPV, or Human Papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted disease that can affect both men and women.
“It’s more common in urban areas, it’s more common on college campuses because there’s more sexual activity, and it’s a preventable disease really,” said Dr. Michael Finan, Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at Mitchell Cancer Institute.
Once you’re infected with HPV, it lives in your body forever.
“Eighty percent of adults will test positive at some point in their lifetime. It’s an epidemic. We’re seeing more aggressive viral types these days. We are seeing a more rapid progression to cancer,” said Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce, GYN Oncologist.
Dr. Finan says prevention should start early, with the HPV Vaccine. It can be used for boys and girls. It’s designed to protect against certain strains of HPV and cancer.
He said, “I have boy-girl twins. I had my twins vaccinated when they were 13. I think 12 to 13 is a good age.”
Dr. Pierce says fewer younger patients are being diagnosed with precancer of the cervix and vulva since the introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2006.
“Yes. We are definitely seeing a drop not only in the rates of HPV infection, but drops in rates of cervical dysplasia across the country and around the world,” she said.
The vaccine can protect against some cancers of the vulva, cervix, vagina, anus, and pharynx, which Dr. Pierce says are getting more aggressive. It does not protect against other STDs or pregnancy.
There have been some changes to the vaccine over the years. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend two doses of the vaccine 6 to 12 months apart rather than the previously recommended three doses.