OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Steven Stenzel, MD, FACOG


Steven Stenzel, MD, FACOG
Stenzel Clinic for Women’s Health
Eau Claire

The information in the media is true! Studies have shown that certain types of cervical cancer are caused by a virus and now a vaccine has been developed to protect against the virus. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)  family has nearly 100 individually separate viral types, each one identified by a number. Thirty of the types can have an effect on the female genital area, including the vaginal opening, vaginal walls and cervix.  Approximately 15 of the 30 HPV types are called “high risk” and have the potential to cause female genital cancers.  

World wide, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death with nearly 250,000 women dying annually.

After exposure to HPV through direct, intimate contact (sexual intercourse) several events may occur. The cervical cells may process the virus with no biological effect. Abnormalities of cervical cells called dysplasia or precancer may occur. The virus may “hibernate” and express its biological effect in the future. Exposure to other HPV types may result in the development of genital warts. These are not cancerous growths, but they are bothersome and frustrating to have treated.

Gardasil is a newly developed vaccine that protects against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers. The vaccine also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause approximately 90% of the external genital warts.

The Gardasil Vaccine is given in three injections over a 6-month period.

The vaccine does not cause a mini infection and it does not contain thimerosal as a preservative. When given to adolescent girls prior to HPV exposure, the vaccine was shown to be 100% effective in preventing cervical cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18; and 100% effective in preventing external genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11. Another way of looking at this is that the vaccine will reduce cervical cancer risk by 70% and external genital warts by 90% when the vaccine is given prior to natural HPV exposure. FDA approval came in June 2006 and the vaccine is now available for use.

The targeted groups for the vaccine are adolescent girls ages 11-12 and females from age 13-26.  They should receive the vaccine regardless of their Pap smear history (abnormal Pap smears or external genital warts). The vaccine does not eliminate the need for Pap smears, which should begin three years following the start of sexual activity or at age 21, whichever comes first. Visits for women’s health issues are encouraged by age 15, but a Pap smear is not necessarily required.

The Gardasil vaccine is given in three injections: the initial shot, another two months later and the third, six months after the first shot. Primary side effects include pain at the injection site. Cost will vary, but the series of shots will be approximately $500, so checking with your health care provider and insurance companies is important.

Confirming this cause and effect relationship to cervical cancer and developing the technique to identify the viral subtypes are major advances for women’s health care. The availability of the HPV vaccine is a monumental step to decrease cervical cancer deaths in the United States where approximately 10,000 new cases are diagnosed with 6,000 deaths. 

What will the future hold? Possible vaccination for men and vaccinating women over the age of 26? Will boosters be necessary? The answers are currently being studied.  Ask your health care provider about HPV, the risk factors and the possibility of vaccination.  Visit www.gardasil.com for more information on the Gardasil vaccine.

For more information about the HPV and the cervical cancer vaccine or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stenzel, Stenzel Clinic for Women’s Health, Eau Claire, call 715.831.6100 or visit www.oakleafmedical.com.  Dr. Stenzel also sees patients in Cumberland, Durand, Neillsville and Stanley.