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In the United States, approximately 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and an average of 10 women die each day from the disease. Fortunately, those frightening statistics may very well soon be a thing of past.

With the recent FDA approval of Gardasil®, the world’s first and only cervical cancer vaccine, women now have a weapon in the war against this potentially deadly disease.

The vaccine, available through MDI Hospital’s health centers, protects girls and women from the two types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gardasil® is also effective in the prevention of genital warts and lesions due to HPV.

“This is an important medical breakthrough,” said Brian Caine, MD, President of MDI Hospital’s Medical Staff and a family physician with the Hospital’s Cooper-Gilmore and Community Health Centers. “Not only does this represent a major advance in women’s health, it’s the first vaccine designed specifically to prevent cancer,” added Dr. Caine.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that the vaccine be given to girls and women from age 11 to 26. The ACIP recommendation allows for vaccination of girls as young as nine years old, at the discretion of the physician.

“The vaccine should be administered before the on-set of sexual activity,” explained Dr. Caine. “But females who are already sexually active should still be vaccinated,” he emphasized. Dr. Caine explained that the vaccine, which is covered by most insurance plans, is given in three doses.

According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. More than 20 million men and women in the US are currently infected with HPV and there are 6.2 million new infections each year.

“Although an effective vaccine is a major advance in the prevention of HPV and cervical cancer, it will not replace other prevention strategies, such as cervical cancer screening for women, or protective sexual behaviors,” stressed Dr. Caine. “Women should continue to get pap tests as a safeguard against cervical cancer.”

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