Is there a vaccine for cervical cancer?

Not directly, but there is a vaccine that protects you from it – while there is no direct vaccination against cervical cancer, the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination is one of the most effective forms of protection against developing it.  

How does the hpv vaccine protect you against cervical cancer? –  the HPV vaccination reduces the chance that you will develop cervical cancer by protecting you against high-risk types of HPV that are responsible for over 90% of cervical cancers worldwide. Types 16 and 18 in particular are responsible for around 70% of all recorded cases. The HPV vaccine offers protection against these two types, in addition to other high and low-risk strains of HPV.

The vaccine also protects against other cancers caused by HPV – HPV infections have also been linked to other forms of cancer in the mouth, anus, throat, penis, vulva, and vagina. Most of these cancers are also caused by types 16 and 18.

How effective is the vaccine in preventing cervical cancer? – clinical trials have found that the HPV vaccination is almost 100% effective in preventing cervical cancers caused by HPV infections, which are responsible for over 90% of all cervical cancers. It is important to note the HPV vaccination can only prevent future infections, and cannot treat existing infections of HPV.

How do I get vaccinated against cervical cancer?

Getting it online – if you are not eligible to receive this vaccination on the NHS, you may get this vaccination privately. Superdrug Health Clinics offers the HPV vaccine in all locations across the UK. All you have to do is call our Customer Support Team and they can book you in for an appointment at your local Superdrug Health Clinic. Other private healthcare services may also provide this vaccination.

Through the NHS – the NHS routinely offers the HPV vaccination to girls aged 12-13. In addition, all girls can get the HPV vaccination for free from the NHS between ages 12-18.

Who can get vaccinated for cervical cancer?

Men and women up to the age of 26 can get the HPV vaccine – while men cannot develop cervical cancer, it is effective in preventing other forms of cancer from developing, and reduces the spread of the HPV infection.

Who should not get the HPV vaccination:

  • If you have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose then you should not get another
  • If you are allergic to latex
  • If you are allergic to yeast
  • If you are pregnant you should delay getting your first dose. If you learn that you are pregnant after receiving a dose of the vaccination, it should not have any negative effects on the pregnancy. However, you should delay further doses until you are no longer pregnant.
  • If you are ill, especially if you have a fever, you should delay vaccination until you have recovered

Who is at risk of cervical cancer?

Full-term pregnancies also increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk is higher for those who have had their first full-term pregnancy under the age of 17.

Oral contraceptives have been linked to cervical cancer. The risk of cervical cancer can be up to double for those who have used oral contraceptives, compared to those who have never used them. There is some evidence to suggest women who have used an IUD are less likely to develop cervical cancer, but it's not clear if this is true for the UK population.

Women who have weaker immune systems have a higher chance of developing cervical cancer. This can be caused by immunosuppression from certain medications, organ transplants, treatments for other types of cancer, or from HIV.

How else can you prevent cervical cancer?

Engage in safe sex practices – HPV is a STI (sexually transmitted infection), so taking precautions to protect yourself will reduce your chances of being infected. Condoms are the most effective way of preventing transmission of STIs.

Get tested regularly – getting regularly tested for HPV, and other infections, means that you can catch them early before they spread or become more serious (such as causing changes in the cervix which could develop into cancer). You can order a range of sexual health test kits, including the HPV test kit, from Superdrug Online Doctor. Although there is not a treatment for HPV if it is detected, women can then be monitored to ensure there are no cervical changes.

Attend cervical screening appointments – Commonly known as a pap smear, the purpose of a cervical screening appointment is to check if there any are abnormalities with the cells of the cervix. HPV is now tested for at every smear test.  Women aged 25-64 are offered cervical screening appointments through the NHS every 3-5 years. This includes women who have already completed a course of the HPV vaccination.

Eat foods high in Vitamin A – cervical cancer risk is lower in women who includes lots of vitamin A and carotene in their diets. According to The American Institute for Cancer Research, carrots are possibly protective against cervical cancer.

Stop smoking - Smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of developing cervical cancer, alongside a number of other cancers and health problems.

What are the risks of getting vaccinated for cervical cancer?

Side effects – the HPV vaccination can cause some temporary side effects in patients. Serious side effects are extremely rare.

Possible side effects which are quite common include:

  • Headache or tiredness
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Fever
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Swelling, itching, bruising or redness at the site of injection

Should I be worried about getting the vaccine? – you should not be worried about any serious adverse effects. Studies have proven that the HPV vaccine is safe for all women, and has not been linked to higher mortality, miscarriage, or termination rates. As the vaccine does not contain any live viruses, the vaccine cannot cause you to become infected with HPV or develop cancer.