fighting cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine
What if there were a way to protect your daughters against 80-85% of the viruses that cause cervical cancers? And, bonus, to protect all your kids against the risk of contracting genital warts?
There is. Thanks to research by Dr. Mao and others, there’s a highly effective, low-risk vaccine that targets HPV—the cause of cervical cancer and genital warts, among other diseases. Allergic reactions are rare, and the most common side effects are sore arms and grumpy pre-teens.
Nearly 12,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013. We wanted to learn more about the vaccine that is already reducing that number and has the capacity to do even more for women’s health, so we went to the expert.
Dr. Connie is the director of Harborview Women’s Dysplasia Clinic in Seattle, Washington, where she focuses on HPV-related disease including cervical, vulvar, and vaginal dysplasia and genital warts. She’s an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, and she has spent the last 19 years doing research related to HPV infections and prevention of cervical cancer.
Click the play button to hear our interview. You can also read the transcript of our conversation about Dr. Connie’s work and the HPV vaccine.
Don’t have time to hear it all? Jump ahead for answers to your most pressing questions:
1:50 – Can you explain what exactly HPV is and what it stands for? What diseases does it cause?
2:21 – How is HPV transmitted?
2:54 – How does HPV work inside our bodies? Once contracted, is it always there?
3:36 – What are the specific health issues HPV can cause in extreme cases?
6:14 – Are there concerns people should have around the vaccine?
7:30 – Is there a prime age for the vaccine?
9:24 – Why do boys also need the vaccine?
12:11 – Are there any preventative things to HPV that a person can do to limit themselves to exposure beyond sexual activity?
14:52 – If a patient wants the HPV screen only, and to forego a Pap exam, what do you recommend?
18:29 – Are there any downsides to the vaccine? What are the rates of allergic reaction?
22:38 – What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?
23:24 – How often should we get screened?
25:25 – What excites you most about where we’re going in women’s health?
We’re very grateful to Dr. Connie for sharing her information and expertise, and for being such a passionate advocate for women’s health.
Learn more about Dr. Connie Mao by visiting the Obstetrics and Gynecology page for the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.