Dr. Van Buren

Dr. James Van Buren discusses facts about the HPV vaccine

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, a great occasion to draw attention to vital health issues that affect women throughout the world.

It is estimated that more than 13,000 women in the United States suffer from cervical cancer each year, with the vast majority of cases resulting from human papillomavirus (HPV).

We recently spoke with UK HealthCare’s Dr. James Van Buren, a primary care pediatrician, about HPV and cervical health, and the HPV vaccine for children. 

Dr. Van Buren is an assistant professor of pediatrics at UK.

How common is HPV in the United States?

HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 43 million people with HPV in the U.S. alone and there are approximately 14 million new infections each year. 

How does HPV relate to cervical cancer?

HPV is responsible for virtually all cervical cancers, as well as over 50 percent of vulvar, vaginal, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers.

What's the best way to prevent HPV?

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, so either practicing abstinence from sexual activity or engaging in protected (e.g., using a condom) sex will help to prevent HPV infection and transmission of the disease. Aside from those things, the HPV vaccine is the best way to decrease infection and spread of HPV. It is also the only vaccine to prevent cancer caused by HPV infection.

How can parents go about getting their child vaccinated against HPV at UK HealthCare?

Any parent or child who wants to get the HPV vaccine can call their healthcare provider to schedule the vaccine. In addition, most physicians are happy to schedule an appointment to answer any questions and/or address any concerns that you may have about the HPV vaccine for your child.

Would you please describe the vaccination process?

The vaccine process is simple. It is intramuscular, meaning that it will be given as an injection into the arm. You can get the HPV vaccine as early as 9-years old, but the typical age for the vaccine is 11 to 12-years old. The first dose is followed by a second dose six months later. If your child starts the series before 15 years of age, then only two doses is recommended. If the vaccine is started at age 15 or later, a third dose of the vaccine is recommended.

Are there any risks/side effects associated with the HPV vaccine?

As with any vaccine or medicine, there are potential side effects. These may include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Dizziness or fainting (fainting after any vaccination, including HPV vaccine, is more common among adolescents)
    • In order to prevent this side effect, many teens are asked to lay down for 15 minutes following the vaccine.
  • Nausea
  • Headache

For those who have contracted HPV, what sort of treatments/screenings should they undergo to minimize the risk of cervical cancer?

Treatment is usually aimed at the lesions caused by HPV, and it is important to catch any of these lesions as early as possible. Anyone with lesions suspicious for HPV should see a healthcare provider for evaluation, and you should continue with all recommended routine checkups.

What else would you like the community to know?

We sometimes see that parents are reluctant to give this vaccine to their children, as it’s a sexually transmitted virus and there is some stigma associated with HPV for that reason. It is important that parents understand that the HPV vaccine is a preventative public health measure. The best and most effective way for the vaccine to work is to get your child protected before they have to worry about being exposed. Because HPV is responsible for virtually all cervical cancers (as well as over half of vulvar, vaginal, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers), it is currently the only vaccination we have against those types of cancer.

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This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.