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37% of U.S. Teen Girls Got HPV Vaccine

By Rachel Stockton rachels at foodconsumer dot org

Only 18% Received All 3 Shots; Coverage Varies by State

Gardasil Gaining Popularity Across the Nation

If you want to determine how far we’ve come when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention in the United States, check out the progress that’s been made in the war on cervical cancer.

At one time, cervical cancer was the most deadly form of cancer among women.  Over the last forty years, cervical cancer deaths have decreased sharply, mainly because of the Pap Smear, a diagnostic tool used to detect changes in the cervix that, over time, can lead to cervical cancer.   The effectiveness of the pap smear is clear; when detected early, cervical cancer is easily treatable.

The pap smear has a new partner in fighting cervical cancer, and that is the two year old vaccine, Gardasil.  The vast majority of cervical cancer cases in the United States are directly attributable to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, genital warts, infertility and ultimately, cervical cancer.

According to a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey, 37% of all teenage girls in the United States have received at least one of the three Gardasil injections; 18% have had all three.  The vaccine helps prevent four different strains of HPV when the entire series is taken.  While those four strains make up the vast majority of all cases of HPV, there are others that can cause cancer.  This means that girls still need to be fairly vigilante about having regular paps.

HPV and cervical cancer are silent invaders; many times, there are no symptoms unless they have caused infertility.  The CDC states that every year, 25,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed; in 2005, just under 4,000 women died from the disease.

Cervical cancer is most likely to appear in women of Hispanic dissent, as well as in women at or below poverty level.  However, this may change in the future due to the fact that the expensive vaccine is part of the Vaccines for Children program, which provides the vaccination for uninsured girls.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for girls as young as 11-12, and then for young women from ages 13-26 who have not been vaccinated previously.