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What is HPV and how does it cause cervical cancer?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. Around 80% of people have at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives but may never know as there are usually no symptoms.

HPV is passed on by genital skin-to-skin contact and can infect all genders and gender-diverse people. It is not passed on by blood, semen or saliva.

There are over 100 different types of HPV, but there are a few high risk types that are linked with cervical cancer.

The body can get rid of most types of HPV naturally, but if it doesn’t get rid of a high risk type, they can cause changes to the cells in your cervix. If these cell changes are not picked up early and treated, they could turn into cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine

Chances are, you will have received the HPV vaccine at school. In Australia, the HPV vaccine is provided free of charge to all 12 and 13 year-olds in school under the National HPV Vaccination Program.

Through this program, eligible high school students receive two doses of the HPV vaccine. This is helping to protect our younger generations from the risk of cervical cancer.

This vaccine provides fully vaccinated people with protection against nine types of HPV, including types 16 and 18, the two types that cause the majority of HPV-related cervical cancers.

Since the vaccination program was introduced in 2007, the number of cervical abnormalities among people with a cervix younger than 25 have been dropping. As a result, cervical cancer will become even rarer among young people.

To find out more about the HPV vaccine, visit www.hpvvaccine.org.au

I’ve been vaccinated – do I still need to have Cervical Screening Tests?

Even if you have received the HPV vaccine, if you are aged 25 to 74 and have a cervix, it’s still important that you have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.

While the HPV vaccine will protect you against several types of HPV, including the main types linked with cervical cancer, it does not protect against them all and no vaccine is 100% effective.

Taking part in regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer. Look after your health, make sure you’re up to date with your Cervical Screening Test.

To find out what happens during a Cervical Screening Test, you can read real life stories.

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