Vaccines can protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a known and necessary causative agent for the development of cervical cancer, anal cancer, and many head and neck cancers, says Thomas Herzog, MD. By including additional valents, protection has increased from almost 70% to more than 85% since vaccines were introduced nearly a decade ago, notes Herzog. Despite its efficacy, uptake with the HPV vaccine has been poor.
Vaccination and screening are part of a 2-tiered approach to cervical cancer prevention, states Bradley J. Monk, MD. Methods of screening include the Papanicolaou (Pap) test and HPV test, the latter of which tests for the virus on the cervix. In general, the HPV test outperforms the Pap test, says Monk.
There has been a lot of stigmatization related to the HPV vaccine, comments Herzog, who would like to see more of a public health initiative to increase its use. Cervical cancer is most prevalent in areas that do not have screening available, adds Robert L. Coleman, MD.