Question: If I’ve had the HPV vaccine Gardesil, do I still need to go for annual pap smears / check ups at the gynae?

If I've had the HPV vaccine Gardesil, do I still need to go for annual pap smears / check ups at the gynae?

Answer

Gardasil is a prophylactic HPV vaccine. It offers protection against 4 HPV types  (type 6, 11, 16 and 18). When administered before girls become sexually active it would have maximum effect, but it is protective against clinical disease if you are already infected by one or more HPV types, due to the presence of the 4 HPV types in the vaccine.

The vaccine offers protection against cervical and other genital cancers as well as genital warts. The vaccine also offers the best possible protection if the course of 3 vaccinations was completed. Another HPV vaccine called Cervarix is also available in South Africa.

There are multiple risk factors for the development of cervical cancers of which HPV types 16 and 18 are the most important. The other risk factors include early sexual activity (younger age), other sexually transmitted infections(gonorrhoea clamydia etc), a weak immune systems(HIV infection), smoking and having multiple sexual partners(increased risk for HPV infection).

Having a HPV vaccine would then give you protection against the development of cervical cancer but due to the other risk factors you are not completely safeguarded. The best possible way to ensure early detection and treatment of cervical cancer still remains to have a regular Pap smear done at your local clinic, general practitioner of gynaecologist.

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