Cervical Cancer and HPV Vaccine

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Cervical Cancer: HPV Vaccine with Dr. David Soper 

Guest: Dr. David Soper – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry

Dr. Linda Austin: I am interviewing Dr. David Soper who is professor of OB/GYN at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Soper, cervical cancer has been an enormous problem generally, particularly, here in South Carolina. But, now with the vaccine available, there is every reason to think in terms of prevention of this disorder.

Dr. David Soper: The HPV vaccine is just a marvelous new development that for the first time has really put the eradication of cervical cancer as a possible targeted outcome. The current vaccine that is available is a quadrivalent HPV vaccine against four different kinds of HPV. Two of the kinds, Type 6 and 11, cause genital warts. So, in and of itself, that is a great reason to get the vaccine. You never have to worry about genital warts; it prevents 90 percent of them.

Dr. Linda Austin: Who should get that vaccine?

Dr. David Soper: The patients that are targeted are between the ages of 11 and 26. Obviously, you want to be able to deliver the vaccine to girls before they become sexually active. But, even those patients who are sexually active and, frankly, who even have a history of HPV can still get the vaccine because it is four different types and most people, if they are infected, are only infected with a single type. Let me also clarify that the vaccine is not only for 6 and 11 which is the genital wart prevention but, maybe most importantly, 16 and 18 which is responsible for 70 percent of the cervical cancer. Again, targeting the same population and what this means is that down the road we are not going to have to worry quite so much about Pap smears.

Dr. Linda Austin: What about, let’s say, a single woman in her 30s, is she too old to get that vaccine?

Dr. David Soper: Well, that vaccine has been approved by the ACIP for the ages between 11, 12 and 26. The reason is because that is where you get more bang for your buck. It is women that are adolescents and young women that are at highest risk for HPV infection. Once women pass 30, their risks for actually becoming infected, and actually for developing significant dysplasia related to that infection, falls greatly. Now, I think in today’s society where you have changing relationships, where somebody may all of the sudden may be in a higher risk environment and possibly come in contact with HPV, that patient should have an individual discussion with her doctor. I think vaccination in that selective situation might still be appropriate.

Dr. Linda Austin: Are there side effects or adverse reactions to the vaccine?

Dr. David Soper: The only side effect is a little bit of a sore arm. It has been studied in over 10,000 girls and women. It is really unbelievably effective. It is almost 100 percent effective in the prevention of these two diseases. Now, the real struggle is to make sure that everybody who is a candidate for the vaccine, which is essentially all young women, come and get the vaccine.

Dr. Linda Austin: There, surely, is research going on in this area, can you comment on that?

Dr. David Soper: I sure can. The current vaccine has four different types as I mentioned. But, we are able to actually put more than that in the vaccine delivery system. So, there is an opportunity to even add more carcinogenic types of HPV, types that cause the additional cervical cancers that the original quadrivalent vaccine would not prevent. We are going to actually be embarking on such a study probably by the end of the year. This will just add the protective effectiveness of the vaccine to include that many more types HPV and prevent that much more cervical cancer.

Dr. Linda Austin: Boy, that is a very exciting development, to think of being able to prevent a disease that affected and even killed so many women in the past.

Dr. David Soper: It is really the first vaccine, arguably, that prevents cancer. So, it really is exciting to be on the ground floor of this new development.

Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. David Soper, thank you so much.

If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection: (843) 792-1414.


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