About 80% of sexually active Americans have contracted human papillomavirus (HPV), making it the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. It’s a viral infection that often disappears on its own — but in some cases, it can lead to contagious warts or certain types of cancer.

Over a decade ago, a vaccine to protect against HPV was approved for use. Since then, it has been proven to reduce complications associated with the virus. Cervical precancer has dropped by 40% in women who have the immunization.

HPV is spread through sexual contact, and the vaccination is most effective before you’re exposed to the virus. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccination.

If you didn’t get the HPV vaccine as a pre-teen, you could still benefit from the vaccination later in life. Learn more about the risks of HPV here and book an appointment with Samuel Van Kirk, MD, in Redding, California, to find out if the HPV vaccine is right for you.

Benefits of the HPV vaccine

While the CDC urges that boys and girls at 11 or 12 years old should get vaccinated for HPV,  children as young as 9 can sometimes receive this vaccine in a series of two shots over a period of one year.

While the ideal time to get the HPV vaccination is before age 13, the CDC recommends that everyone who’s 26 years old or younger get the vaccination. If you’re over the age of 15, the vaccine is administered as a series of three shots over six months.

If you’re older than 26 and you haven’t received the vaccine, you may still benefit from getting the shots because the vaccine lowers your risk for certain health conditions. The HPV vaccine protects you against the virus, which can cause significant health complications.

People with HPV can develop:

  • Genital warts
  • Plantar warts
  • Flat warts
  • Cervical cancer
  • Other cancers

The HPV vaccine exposes your immune system to a weakened or dead version of the virus. Your body is able to create antibodies that protect you from contracting the live virus later on.

Understanding your risk for HPV

Certain HPV vaccines are approved for men and women as old as 45, but the efficacy of the vaccination decreases as you get older. It’s less effective if you get it after you’ve been exposed to the virus, and most people are exposed by the time they turn 30.

Dr. Van Kirk can help you decide if getting the HPV vaccine could benefit your health if you’re over the age of 26. He reviews your medical history, lifestyle, and sexual habits with you to determine your risk of HPV, cancer, and other complications.

If you’re sexually active, you’re at risk for contracting HPV and other STDs. It can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Using a latex condom every time you have sex can reduce your risk of exposure to HPV, but it can’t completely prevent it.

The number of sexual partners you have affects your risk of HPV and other STDs. People who have multiple sexual partners are at a greater risk of contracting STDs.

Getting regular exams can help you stay healthy regardless of whether you’ve had the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer screenings can identify cellular changes early on, so if cancer is detected, treatment can be more effective.

Should you get the HPV vaccine? The answer is influenced by your age, lifestyle, and sexual habits. Talk to Dr. Van Kirk to evaluate your options and decide if the HPV vaccine is right for you. Call our Redding office today at 530-242-4129 for an appointment. You can also send a message to Dr. Van Kirk and the team here on the website.

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