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Which Cancer can be Prevented by Vaccination?

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BY DR. KHOOBSURAT NAJMA

Many of you may not be aware that certain viruses may increase the risk of some types of cancer. Such viruses are, Human papilloma virus (linked to cervical cancer) and Hepatitis B virus (linked to risk of Liver Cancer).

There are currently no vaccines able to prevent all cancers. However, vaccines against some viruses have proven extremely effective, thereby providing certain degree of protection against cancers caused by these viruses.

Which vaccines are approved for cancer prevention?

At present, there are three cancer prevention vaccines approved in India :

1 . Gardasil™: It provides protection against Human Papilloma virus (HPV) and minimizes the risk of Cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in girls and women, anal cancer in women and men and genital warts in men and boys.

2 . Cervarix™: This also provides protection against HPV and minimizes the risk of cervical cancer in girls and women (ages 10 to 25).

3 . Hepatitis B vaccine: The vaccine prevents Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and reduces risk of liver cancer.  

What is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?

Human papilloma virus or HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts and cancer. Genital warts are soft growths on the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals. They may be found on the penis, vulva, urethra, vagina, cervix, and around and in the anus.

How does it spread?

– Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus

– HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms

How can it be prevented?

– By Practicing safe sex

By Vaccination

As mentioned above, vaccines available in India are Gardasil™ (marketed by Merck) and Cervarix™ (marketed by Glaxo Smith Kline). They can be given to all females between the age of 10-26 or as advised by the doctor.

Dosage : The vaccine dose is 0.5 mL given through an intramuscular injection

Schedule : Gardasil™ is given in three doses, at 0, 2 and 6 months and at 0, 1 and 6 months in the case of Cervarix™.

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What is Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)?

Hepatitis B or HBV is a virus that infects the liver. Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis B. Over time, it can damage the liver. Babies and young children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B. A chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) increases the risk of liver cancer.

How does it spread?

– From an infected mother to baby at the time of birth

– Unsafe injections and blood transfusions

– Unprotected sexual contact

How can it be prevented?

– By Practicing Injection safety, using sterile syringes/needles

– By Practicing Safe Sex

– By Not sharing razors/ needles

By Vaccination

Hepatitis B vaccine is available in India.

Dosage : For children<10 years: 10 mcg dose (in 0.5 ml suspension). For adults and children above 10 years, 20 mcg dose (1.0 ml suspension) is recommended.

Schedule : 1st dose at an elected date, 2nd dose 4 to 10 weeks after the 1st dose and 3rd dose-1 to 5 months after the 2nd dose. Booster may be given as per doctor’s advice.
For advice on vaccination against these viruses, consult your doctor.

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