The human papilloma viruses (HPV) are a family that are responsible for many skin lesions – such as plain warts, verrucas and genital warts.

However, they are also responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and are a cause of vulval and anal cancers. HPV is relatively common and can be spread through sexual contact.

There are some strains of HPV (6, 11, 16 and 18) that can potentially cause changes in the cervix. These changes are usually pre-cancerous in nature and therefore early warning signs. By undertaking regular smears these pre-cancerous changes can be detected and treatment provided so cervical cancer does not develop. The cervical smear screening programme in the UK has been hugely successful in preventing and reducing cervical cancer rates.

In addition to the screening we now also have vaccines that can immunise against HPV. There are 2 main types of vaccine. Cervarix protects against 2 strains of HPV (16 and 18) which are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers, whereas Gardasil protects against the 4 most common strains likely to cause sinister cervical cell changes (6, 11, 16 and 18).

There is now a new vaccine available (Gardasil 9) that protects against 9 different HPV strains that can potentially cause cervical, vulval, anal and penile cancer.

Gardasil 9 can be given to both males and females after the age of 9 until 26 years old. In addition to protecting against cervical cancer the vaccines can also help protect against vulval cancer, anal cancer and genital warts. Patients older than 26 can also be given the vaccine off licence, this is usually recommended if they are considered to be in a high risk group.

Prior to any vaccine being administered there would be a full assessment and explanation of the benefits and risks.

Key points:
• The vaccines can be administered as a 2 or 3 dose schedule dependent on patient age
• Cost of Gardasil 9 per dose £185

Please contact us for further information.