September 30, 2014
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HPV

 Health Home >> HPV >> How parents can talk to their daughters about HPV 

 Visiting your doctor?


You can talk to your doctor or other health care provider to learn about preventing human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the problems it can cause, like genital warts and cervical cancer. Prepare for your visit by using our HPV: Doctor Discussion Guide

 Frequently asked
 questions (FAQs)


Question: How common is HPV?

Find this and more answers to common questions about HPV.


How can I protect my daughter from HPV?

In addition to getting regular Pap tests and checkups, there are other ways to protect your daughter from HPV.

Safer sex

Practicing safer sex can help protect your daughter from HPV, which may cause abnormal cervical cells, cervical cancer, genital warts, and other health problems. HPV is spread from skin-to-skin genital contact during sexual activity (even if there is no actual sexual intercourse).

What does "safer sex" mean?

  • using a condom every time she has sexual contact
  • avoiding any sexual contact when either partner is showing signs of genital warts, blisters, sores, or itching - there is still a chance you could catch the virus because it is transmitted through skin-to-skin genital contact
  • limiting the number of sexual partners (See how HPV can spread using the "Six degrees of HPV" tool)

Your daughter should know that abstinence (not having sex) is a valid choice and she should not feel pressured into having sex because others are doing it. But if she does decide to have sex, it's important that she knows that following the tips above can help reduce her risk of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.

It's also important for your daughter to know the limits of safer sex:

  • Remind your daughter that condoms don't provide complete protection because they don't cover all exposed skin that could transmit HPV. The most common way to spread HPV is through skin-to-skin contact. This means if your daughter's partner is wearing a condom, the infection can still be spread.

Being in a monogamous relationship won't necessarily protect your daughter from getting HPV. She or her partner may already have caught HPV from genital contact during a previous relationship.

You have a very important role to play in making sure your daughter learns to protect herself from HPV and other sexually transmitted infections by practicing safer sex! Although our children often get sex education at school, more than half (63%) depend on their parents for information about sex and sexual health. This means they really do listen! Talk to your daughter about HPV, and make sure she understands how to practice safer sex to protect herself from HPV and other sexually transmitted infections. Get tips for talking to your daughter about HPV.

Vaccination

Vaccines are available to help prevent certain types of HPV. The HPV vaccines provide protection against 2 types of HPV that cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. One HPV vaccine also provides protection against the 2 types of HPV that cause 90% of all genital warts.

HPV vaccination is available for girls and young women at least 9 years of age. One vaccine is for girls and young women aged 10 to 25 years. Another vaccine is available for girls and young women aged 9 to 45 years.

HPV vaccination is given in a series of 3 separate shots over a period of 6 months. After you first receive the shot, the second shot is given either 1 month or 2 months after the first shot (depending on which vaccine you are receiving). The third shot is given 6 months after the first shot. To make sure the vaccine is effective, it's very important that your daughter receive all 3 shots at exactly the right times. To help you remember, try setting up your daughter's next 2 appointments at the first doctor's visit, and mark them in your calendar at home.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and Health Canada give the following guidelines:

  • The best time for a girl to be vaccinated is before she becomes sexually active, because she will not have had a chance to become infected with certain types of HPV.
  • HPV vaccination is still useful for girls and young women who are already sexually active, since they are unlikely to already be infected with the types of HPV that the vaccines help protects against.
  • HPV vaccination can also be used for women who have already had abnormal Pap tests, genital warts, cervical cancer, or abnormal cervical cells, since it may still protect them from HPV types included in the vaccine that they have not yet encountered. However, the vaccine is not a treatment for cervical cancer, genital warts, or abnormal cervical cells. HPV vaccination should not be a substitute for regular medical checkups, which include routine Pap tests. Remember, a Pap test is one of the best ways to screen for abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer.

Based on NACI's recommendations, all provinces and territories offer publicly funded HPV vaccination as part of the routine immunization schedule. Depending on the province or territory, HPV vaccination is given to females between grades 4 and 9. HPV vaccination is provided free of charge, similar to routine vaccinations such as for measles, mumps, rubella, or tetanus.

The vaccines are generally well tolerated. Some women may experience side effects from HPV vaccination. These may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • muscle ache or tenderness
  • nausea
  • pain, swelling, itching, or redness where the injection was given
  • vomiting

Ask your doctor about what your daughter should do if she experiences any of these side effects. Very rarely, women may have difficulty breathing after having the vaccine. If this happens, seek emergency medical attention for your daughter.

The HPV vaccine can also be given to males. One of the HPV vaccines available in Canada can also be used by boys and young men aged 9 to 26 years. For males, the HPV vaccine helps protect against certain types of HPV that cause HPV infection and genital warts and anal cancer. The dosing schedule is the same as for females: 3 shots over a period of 6 months. Vaccination against HPV in males is also important because it will help prevent the spread of HPV infection.


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