HPV vaccine and Cervical Cancer
What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. There are many different types of HPV which can be grouped into (i) high-risk types (may cause cancer) and (ii) low risk types (non-cancer causing). About 30 - 40 HPV sub-types can infect the genital area; some can cause genital warts in both men and women, but only 14 are associated with cervical cancer in women and less commonly, anal or penile cancer in men. These fourteen strains are known as the high-risk HPV.
Other HPV sub-types may infect the skin of the fingers, hands and face. Genital HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. It may be asymptomatic. It infects both men and women. Condoms may offer some but not total protection against HPV.
How is HPV related to cervical cancer?
Some types of HPV can infect the cervix causing the cells to change. In 90% of the cases, the virus can clear itself but if the infection persists the cells can grow in an abnormal way. Some of the abnormal cells may develop into cervical cancer. The risk of infection is seen to be higher for:
Multiple sexual partners: The greater the number of sexual partners, the higher is your risk of HPV infection. Having sexual activity with a partner who has had multiple sex partners can also increase your risk. While using condoms can help reduce the risk of HPV infection, it does not cover all genital skin nor guarantees 100% protection.
Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems (e.g. may be due to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or on immune-system suppressing drugs) are at higher risk of HPV infection.
Why take the immunization?
HPV vaccine helps to reduce the chances of getting cervical cancer. It works by preventing infection with certain types of HPV targeted by the vaccines.
When to vaccinate?
Recommended age in Singapore is between 9 -26 years. It is best given to a girl or woman before she is exposed to the virus i.e. before her first sexual contact. If you are over the age of 26 (especially if you have had no sexual contact), the vaccine still provides some degree of protection. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Are HPV vaccines compulsory?
No HPV vaccine is not compulsory in Singapore but is recommended for prevention against cervical cancer.
What is schedule?
Most adolescents age 9-13 years of age should get HPV vaccine as a 2 dose series with the doses separated by six months. People who start HPV vaccination at age 14 or older should get the vaccine as a 3 dose series with the second dose given 1-2 months after the first dose. The third dose is 6 months after the first dose.
I've been vaccinated. Must I still go for a Pap smear?
Yes! You should go for a Pap smear once every three years even if you have been vaccinated. About 30% cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV sub-types which the vaccines do not protect against. In other words, the vaccines do not protect against ALL cancer-causing HPV sub-types.
Regular Pap smear is still your best protection against cervical cancer.
Can Medisave be used to pay for the HPV Vaccination?
Yes. patients can use up to $400 per Medisave account per year under the Medisave 400 scheme to pay for HPV vaccination. Patients can use their own Medisave or that of their immediate family members (e.g. parents or spouse) to help pay for the vaccination.
The deductible and co-payment rules will not apply for HPV vaccinations.
Please speak to the clinic staff for more information and book an appointment.