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Breee Asks:

I just got my 2nd shot, and I also just found out I'm pregnant -- no more than 6 weeks -- but i was pregnant when I got the shot. Is this going to hurt the baby?

While the vaccine is not recommended for women who are pregnant, so far in the ongoing registries, there is no evidence that the vaccine harms the baby.  Do talk the situation over with your health care provider, but don’t be overly anxious. 

mardy Asks:

 Is it safe to get pregnant after getting the vaccine?

Getting pregnant now after receiving the vaccine is fine. The vaccine is considered a class B drug and there are ongoing pregnancy registries tracking pregnancy outcomes in women who have gotten pregnant around the time of receiving the vaccine.  See the question and answer above from Bitsy. You should feel perfectly safe getting pregnant after getting the three vaccine series. 

daniella Asks:

When I got with my partner 8 years ago he gave me HPV.  I went to the doctor and she gave me medicine to make the warts go away. It has been 8 years and I haven't had any warts come back. So does that mean I don't have the virus anymore?

While most HPV becomes clinically not detectable after some time, this does not necessarily mean it has gone away.  You may have cleared the virus or it may still be in your body in non-detectable levels. The good news is that the likelihood of its returning, once it is gone, is small.  Most of us have HPV but never know it.  It is very common.

Brett Asks:

I have gotten out of a relationship of 4 months. My partner had cervical cancer about 1 1/2 years ago. What are the chances of passing HPV to my next partner?

The likelihood is high that you are infected with a high risk HPV type which means that you may pass it on to your next partner.  Unfortunately, the risk of your transmitting this HPV type to your next partner is not known.  What we do know is that a number of things need to occur, in addition to oncogenic or cancerous HPV infection, before a woman develops cervical cancer. Most women who have an HPV infection clear it on their own and cancer does not develop. Transmitting the virus to your partner rarely results in any disease.  HPV infections in men, like those in women, clear on their own most of the time over a period of time which can last from a few months to several years.  To best understand your specific risk, you should discuss these issues with a healthcare provider that deals with HPV so they can give you more personal guidance.

Rondalynn Asks:

If a woman had mild dysplasia, had cryotherapy for treatment, then 10 years later had her cervix removed during a hysterectomy, can she still develop cervical cancer?

The answer to your question depends on why you had a hysterectomy.

·                                 If you had a hysterectomy to treat cervical cancer, you should continue to have regular Pap tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back.

·                                 If you had a hysterectomy to treat pre-cancerous changes in your cervix, you should continue to have regular tests for at least a few years after the surgery.

·                                 If you had a hysterectomy where your cervix was not removed (called a subtotal or supracervical hysterectomy), you should have regular tests until you are at least 70 years old. Since your cervix wasn’t removed, there is still a chance, albeit small, that you could develop cervical cancer.

·                                 If you had a total hysterectomy (the entire uterus, including the cervix was removed) for a reason other than cancer or pre-cancer, you may not need to have the Pap or HPV test any more. Check with your doctor first, since some conditions may mean that you should continue to be tested.

·                                 If you had a hysterectomy and have an immune system disease (such as infection with HIV) or are taking medicines that suppress your immune system (such as after a kidney transplant), you may be more likely to develop diseases as a result of your HPV infection. You should be tested regularly.

You should discuss your situation and your risk factors for HPV infection with your health care provider. No matter what you decide about the Pap and HPV tests, you should continue to have regular pelvic exams.

Jane Asks:

Are there any side effects to the HPV vaccine?

Studies show that the vaccine is extremely safe. There is no live virus in the vaccine. The most common side effects are redness and soreness where the shot was given. Headaches (like when you have a cold or fever) can also happen. Rarely, fever can also occur. Over-the-counter pain and fever medications will help if you have symptoms. As with any new medication, safety issues will continue to be monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA.  While there are rare reports of girls or young women having complications after getting the vaccine, to date, this has not affected recommendations or approval for use of the vaccine.

joh Asks:

I am confused about you saying that HPV is ONLY contacted through sex. I was told I had the HPV virus and changed cells etc. But at the time I had not had sex or gential contact with anyone? Can you explain?

HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact. Sex is the most common skin to skin contact when this occurs.

Mary-Anne Asks:

I am 27 and my HPV test (following an abnormal Pap) detected low risk HPV type71. What should be the best treatment for this type and what should I do from now on? Will the HPV vaccination help me(since I am only 1 year older from the deadline of 26)? How can I prevent my partner from be infected?

The vaccine protects against HPV strains other than the one you have (types 16 and 18 which cause the majority of cervical cancer and types 6 and 11 which cause genital warts).  The vaccine protects against these types prior to exposure to them.  The use of HPV genotypes in the US has only recently been approved, and only for HPV 16 and 18.  So there are no clinical guidelines for  management of other types, such as HPV 71.  Also, currently, the vaccine is only recommended in women up to age 26. To prevent your partner from infection your best bet is to use condoms.  HPV can be spread through skin to skin contact and the condom may not cover all areas that could lead to transmission. But it does offer some protection against HPV.

Tanya Asks:

IS THERE ANY VACCINATION FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN INFECTED BY HPV?

You ask whether the HPV vaccine can be given to someone who has already been diagnosed with HPV. The answer is yes, maybe.  The only vaccine currently available is Gardasil. It protects against 4 different strains of HPV; two that cause cervical cancer and two that cause genital warts. So if someone has had one of the HPV strains, but not the others, the vaccine may still offer protection against the ones that that person hasn't already had. The vaccine does not cure existing HPV infections, it is not designed or meant to be a ‘therapeutic’ vaccine.  Such vaccines are currently in clinical trials.  It is also important to remember that there are age restrictions currently for the vaccine. It has been approved for women ages 9-26. So if you are older than that your insurance generally will not pay for the vaccine. There is a three dose series costing approximately $360 for the drug plus an administration fee for each dose. Most insurance plans are currently covering it.  Your best bet is to discuss your situation with your healthcare provider before you decide to get the vaccine. 

Dionne Asks:

What can be done to boost the immune system to fight off the virus &/or cell changes?

The obvious ways to make sure that your immune system is strong are to take care of your health by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and not smoking.  Those healthful behaviors affect us in so many ways. 

Marte Asks:

I have most of the symptoms of cervical cancer. What do I do?

Your question sounds urgent!  In its early stages, cervical cancer or early cervical pre-cancerous abnormalities usually have no signs or symptoms. That's why it's important to get Pap tests regularly. Symptoms usually do not show up until the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissue. The most common symptoms at this stage are:

 

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Blood spots or light bleeding when you're not having your period
  • Bleeding or pain during sex

 

Additional symptoms may occur. These include:

  • Anemia because of abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • Ongoing pelvic, leg, or back pain.
  • Urinary problems because of blockage of a kidney or ureter.
  • Bleeding from the rectum or bladder.
  • Weight loss.

If these are the symptoms you are experiencing, speak to your healthcare provider right away!  Don't ignore the symptoms. Don't waste any time in contacting your physician. Ignoring the symptoms can give the cancer time to grow into a more advanced stage and lower your chance for the treatment to be effective.

 

However, you should realize that just because you have these symptoms doesn't mean you have cervical cancer. You can have these symptoms for other reasons. Nevertheless, it is important to check with your healthcare provider to find out what's causing them. Finding cervical cancer early means you have a better chance of the treatment being successful.

Bitsy Asks:

I have received all 3 cervical cancer vaccine shots. How soon can I become pregnant?

Good for you for getting all three doses of the cervical cancer vaccine. It is extremely important to finish all three doses to obtain the maximum benefit.  Getting pregnant now after receiving the vaccine should not give you any concerns. The vaccine is considered a class B drug regarding teratogenicity (possibility of affecting a fetus).  This means it is very safe and in the clinical trial data and pregnancy registry since approval of Gardasil, it is clear this is a safe drug and likely does not affect a fetus.  So all of this equates to the conclusion that you do not have to wait to delay getting pregnant after the 3 dose series.

Jackie Asks:

I’m 18 and have already taken 2 cervical cancer vaccine shots and am scheduled to get my last one in December. I just found out I am 7 weeks pregnant. Will the vaccine harm my baby? Will I have problems or something like that? I read that pregnant women should not take the vaccine.  I am worried.

You ask about the effect of the cervical cancer vaccine on pregnancy.  You should not get the third shot while you are pregnant. The vaccine is not recommended for women who are pregnant.  So far in the ongoing registries, there is no evidence that the vaccine harms the baby. You should definitely talk to your doctor about your concerns, but I don't think you need to be overly worried. Good luck with your pregnancy. Make sure you see your doctor regularly while you are pregnant.

Maureen Asks:

Do you know why older women cannot get the HPV vaccine, even if they have taken the HPV test and results show they do not have any of the cancer causing HPV virus types?

Gardasil, the only vaccine currently in the US market, was approved in June 2006 in the US by the Food and Drug Administration for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26 and has been recommended by many organizations for routine use in 11 and 12 year old girls.  The vaccine is not approved for women over age 26 in the US.  As more data is generated on clinical trials, this may change. 

Beverly Asks:

Is it true that some women diagnosed with HPV can also get the vaccine to prevent them from getting other strains?

Yes, it is true that women who have been exposed to HPV may still get some benefit from the cervical cancer vaccine.  The maximum benefit is achieved when the vaccine is administered prior to any HPV exposure.  The vaccine is approved for women between the ages of 9 and 26.

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