Medical Moment: Teens & HPV Vaccine

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Laura Cattell, PA-C

Laura Cattell, PA-C

Laura A. Cattell, PA-C answer this week’s question: Should my teenager get the HPV vaccine?

Yes, it can prevent certain types of cancer.

For several years now the HPV vaccine has been recommended for girls and young women ages 9-26. But more recently we are all talking about giving it to our boys as well. Why should our young teens have another immunization?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can cause cancer. The cancers include cervical, vaginal, penile, anal and oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. In addition, certain strains can cause genital warts.

The virus is spread by skin to skin contact during sexual activity including oral sex, anal sex and intercourse. It is possible to have the virus and not know it: therefore a person can be spreading it without realizing it.

Recent data:

HPV is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection in the United States.

Over 12000 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually; cervical cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in women.

Over 15000 cases of HPV related cancers are diagnosed annually in women

Over 7000 cases of HPV related cancers are diagnosed annually in men; most of these are throat cancers.

A positive step in prevention against these cancers: the HPV vaccine.

The Telluride Medical Center prescribes Gardasil which is licensed by the FDA and recommended by the CDC.

The Gardasil vaccine, frequently referred to as “the cancer shot”, has been available since 2006 and the research is proving it to be safe and effective. Over 46 million doses have been distributed in the US since its approval. It protects against several types of HPV that cause both genital warts and HPV related cancers. The Gardasil vaccine has also been tested and is approved for use in both boys and girls ages 9-26.


Vaccinate between ages 11 -13

For the vaccine to work best it should be given long before sexual activity (though it can still provide protection after sexual activity has begun)

Follow the recommended schedule, 3 doses given (1st injection followed by 2nd and 3rd at two and six months, respectively)

Boys, this will not only protect you from certain cancers, but will decrease your spreading HPV to your partners.


Females still need pap smears as currently recommended (beginning at age 21)

The vaccine will not get rid of a current HPV infection

You need all 3 vaccines to be protected

If you have started the series but not completed it please call TMC to schedule an appointment. There is a “make up schedule.”


Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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One Response

  1. Wendy says:

    The figures for HPV related cancers are simply staggering! I am a firm believer in vaccinations and certainly hope this gains momentum. I live in New Zealand where girls and young women up to the age of 20 can have the vaccine free. It is available for boys between 9-26 years, but they have to pay as it is not funded yet.

    Wish this vaccine was around when my kids were teenagers, so my answer would have been “yes”.