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HPV Vaccine and Screening

Our commitment to the well-being of our South Texas community includes lowering the risk of cancers due to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Doctors and researchers from Mays Cancers Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, are taking extra steps to help more people learn about the benefits of the HPV vaccine and screenings.

What you need to know about HPV

  • HPV is a group of viruses that spread through intimate contact, including oral, anal and vaginal sex.
  • Infection with an HPV virus is common. It's the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Many people have HPV and don’t know it because it doesn’t cause symptoms.
  • Your immune system often attacks HPV — similar to how your body fights other viruses. Once you clear the virus, you’re immune to that form of HPV.
  • Some HPV infections lead to cell changes that can become cancerous. HPV is a cause of:

How the HPV vaccine can help you and when to get it

Gardasil 9 is an HPV vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Association (FDA) for use in the U.S. Gardasil can prevent cancers caused by HPV, including anal, cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. In 2020, the FDA also approved Gardasil to prevent head and neck cancers.

Lifelong protection from HPV and associated cancers requires receiving a series of shots. You have better protection if you get the full series before being exposed to the virus, which can happen when you become sexually active.

HPV vaccine recommendations

You may need two or more doses of Gardasil based on your age and the length of time between doses:

  • Adolescents: Boys and girls should receive their first dose around 11 or 12 years old and an additional dose before turning 15. If you receive your first dose after 15, you will likely need three doses for it to be effective.
  • Adults: If you are between 27 and 45 years old and did not receive all the necessary rounds of HPV vaccine, you may still be eligible to complete the vaccine. Talk with your primary care physician to find out what’s best for you.  

HPV screening and testing

We use the Pap smear (for cervical cancer) and HPV test as screening tools. They can detect abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancerous.

How we’re raising HPV awareness and vaccine rates in South Texas

Our doctors and researchers are making it easy for people to get access to the HPV vaccine with efforts focusing on:

  • Cancer survivors: The HPV vaccine may help lower the risk of new cancers in people who have completed cancer treatment. Find out more about life after cancer.
  • Rural communities: Our researchers work with health clinics in rural areas to educate patients and providers about HPV and the vaccine. Read more about our Community Outreach and Engagement Program.
  • Primary care: UT Health San Antonio primary care physicians frequently talk to their patients about the benefits of getting the HPV vaccine.