October 6, 2005
The first study of an experimental vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is showing significant promise, and is being hailed a medical breakthrough.
"It shows incredible results," said Dr. Gwendolyn Kelly, a local gynecologist. "It's a phenomenal breakthrough for women."
This is news that can possibly effect thousands of women's lives. The first major study of Gardacil, a genetically engineered vaccine, has been shown to prevent cervical cancer in young women.
"Worldwide, cervical cancer is the number two killer of all women and about 250,000-300,000 women die each year from this disease," said Kelly.
The vaccine is designed to guard against a sexually transmitted virus called Human Papilloma Virus or H.P.V., the primary cause of both cervical cancer and genital warts.
Trials show Guardacil reduces the H.P.V. virus in the genital track and prevents it from causing irregular pap smears.
"The chance of having an abnormal pap is about one in ten, so if we can reduce the rate of getting an abnormal pap, we can substantially reduce the risk of getting cervical cancer as well. The key is to vaccinate women before they become sexually active," explained Kelly.
But will discomfort with divulging information about their sexual activity keep women from being vaccinated? Dr. Kelly thinks not.
"It'll probably be bypassed by becoming just a standard of care, so you go and bring your child to the doctor and they get a polio vaccine and a measles vaccine and a mumps vaccine, and this would just be one more vaccine that your child gets."
Because smoking doubles the risk of the virus causing cancer of the cervix, experts advise against smoking to further reduce risks.