When it comes to their health, most people would prefer to make proactive decisions over reactive ones. Preventative measures, such as human papillomavirus vaccinations, are making headlines for drastically lowering statistics.

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 4,120 women will die of cervical cancer this year.

The vaccine for HPV, a virus known to cause cervical cancer in women, has proved effective, reducing the virus’s prevalence in teenage girls by almost two-thirds, but immunization rates still remain low, according to a New York Times article.

Whether or not this news encourages parents to vaccinate their children is still unclear due to the low vaccination rate, with approximately 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 being vaccinated, according to the New York Times.

The reason could be the fact that the vaccination is commonly associated with adolescent sexual activity rather than the actual purpose: preventing cancer.

Some types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina and oropharynx. There are currently three vaccines available to prevent HPV.

The vaccine is administered in a series of three shots over six months.

For some women, the side effects associated with the vaccine can be overwhelming. Possible short-term side effects include: pain, redness, bruising or itching where the shot was given. Other potential side effects include, mild fever, nausea, vomiting, sleep problems, sore throat and joint or muscle pain.

I received the vaccinations when I was younger, and can’t remember the shots having major side effects.

“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives,” according to the Center for Disease Control’s, CDC, website.

HPV can be passed on even when an infected person shows no symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after you’ve had sex with someone infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

There are 79 million men and women who are currently infected with HPV in the U.S., according to the CDC. 14 million people become newly infected each year.

Think about that number: 14 million. That’s 2,603 times the number of undergraduate students at PSUC.

HPV is a group of 150 related viruses, approximately 40 types of those can infect male and female genital areas.

To add to that, a new study suggests that this virus may also cause cardiovascular disease.

Women infected with HPV are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, according to a report published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

I was young when I was vaccinated. I don’t remember making the choice myself, so I’m going to assume my mother gave my doctor the thumbs up on that one.

In order for the vaccine to be fully effective, females are encouraged to get vaccinated before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV. Females who are already sexually active may also benefit from the vaccination, but they may benefit less because they may have already been exposed to one or more of the HPV types the vaccines works against, according to the CDC.

Having received the vaccinations, seeing the impact that it has had on my age demographic has made me proud of my mother’s choice.

At 13 years old cervical cancer and HPV we’re the furthest things from my mind.

Thanks mom.

Email Madison Winters at madison.winters@cardinalpointsonline.com

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<a href="http://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/madison-winters/" rel="tag">Madison Winters</a>