Local Cancer Trust Ambassador Suzanne Fernando has spoken of the importance to young girls of receiving the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination when it is offered at school.
With local schools returning last week after the summer break, girls in Second Year, normally aged 12 to 13, will be offered the HPV jab, which helps to protect against the virus that causes most cervical cancers.
Suzanne Fernando is, herself, a survivor of cervical cancer and now leads an Ayrshire Support Group and raises awareness of the disease through her ambassadorial role with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Suzanne was diagnosed while she was pregnant with her second daughter, Aaron, who is now age to receive the HPV jab. Mrs Fernando’s older girl, Jordan, has already been vaccinated at school.
The HPV vaccine is designed to protect against the two types of Human Papilloma Virus that cause 75% of the cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine also protects against two other types of HPV that cause about 90% of the cases of genital warts.
Speaking of the vaccine, which is given in three doses to teenage girls, Sir Harry Burns, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, said, “This programme plays a critical part in helping to protect thousands of Scottish women from a disease that can attack them in the prime of their lives.
“It was established first and foremost to protect against cervical cancer, however, the fact that the new vaccine also provides protection against genital warts is an added benefit.
“In Scotland, we have seen very high levels of uptake of the vaccine over the first five years of the programme, and I am confident that will continue to be the case in the future.”
Health professionals explain it is important to get protection early enough for it to be effective, with the early teenage years being the best time to start. However, as the vaccine is only effective against the two types of HPV that cause 75% of the cases of cervical cancer, it is stressed that females should also start going for regular cervical screening (smear tests) when they reach the appropriate age. The combination of immunisation and cervical screening is recognised as offering the best possible protection against cervical cancer.