You've got questions. We've got answers.
If you have any questions about cervical cancer or Cervarix®, your doctor is your best source for answers. This section is also a good place to start, because it includes answers to commonly-asked questions.
What is Cervarix®? What does it do?
Cervarix® is a vaccine for girls and young women aged 9 to 25. Cervarix® can help protect against cervical cancer by preventing infection with the most common high-risk HPV types linked to cervical cancer (HPV types 16 and 18).
NOTE: As with all vaccines, Cervarix® may not fully protect all people who are vaccinated. In addition, Cervarix® doesn't treat any HPV-related diseases you may currently have, and won't protect against diseases that aren't caused by HPV.
How does Cervarix® work?
The Cervarix® vaccine works by helping your body produce antibodies against the most common high-risk HPV types linked to cervical cancer (HPV 16 and 18). Antibodies help destroy viruses like HPV that could lead to disease. To boost your body's response to Cervarix® leading to long-lasting antibody levels, the vaccine contains an adjuvant – a component made from natural compounds that enhances your body's response to Cervarix® by providing stronger and longer protection.
Pap tests check for precancerous cells that are already on the cervix. With the Cervarix® vaccine, you have a chance to help prevent cervical cancer by protecting yourself against the HPV types that cause most cases in the first place (HPV 16 and 18).
Studies are ongoing to determine the duration of protection. In clinical trials, sustained protection has been observed for up to 8.4 years after the first dose.
Will I still need to get Pap tests?
Yes. While Cervarix® helps protect against the most common high-risk HPV types linked to cervical cancer, it doesn't protect against all HPV types. That's why it's very important to get regular Pap tests, as they can help detect abnormal cells which can be treated.
I'm not sexually active yet. Can Cervarix® benefit me?
Yes. By getting the Cervarix® vaccine, you can help prevent infection associated with the most common cancer-causing HPV types (HPV 16 and 18) before you engage in any sexual activity.
Can I still benefit from Cervarix® if I'm already sexually active?
Yes. Cervarix® can help protect yourself against the most common high-risk HPV types linked to cervical cancer (HPV 16 and 18). Even if you have been exposed to HPV, you may not have been exposed to one of these high-risk types.
If you're currently infected with HPV 16 or 18, Cervarix® can help protect you against the other type. In addition, if the infection clears, Cervarix® has been shown to provide protection in the event of re-exposure.
How many vaccinations will I need?
Cervarix® is given as a series of 3 vaccinations. It's very important that you get all 3 doses. Why? Unless you get all 3, you're not as protected as you can be. Having all three doses helps your body get the best possible response from Cervarix®.
The second Cervarix® dose is 1 month after the first dose, and the third Cervarix® dose is 6 months after the first dose. If you need the schedule to be more flexible, talk to your doctor about timing. You can get the second vaccination from 1 to 2.5 months after the first dose, and the third from 5 to 12 months after the first dose.
Can I get HPV from the vaccine?
No. Cervarix® is not infectious, so it can't cause HPV-related diseases.
What are the possible side effects?
Like all medicines, Cervarix® may cause side effects, although not everyone is affected. You may experience some pain, discomfort, redness or swelling at the injection site. These usually clear up within a few days.
Other potential side effects: Very common (may occur with more than 1 in 10 doses): Headache, aching muscles, muscle tenderness or weakness not caused by exercise, and fatigue. Common (may occur with up to 1 in 10 doses): Gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, itching, red skin rash, hives, joint pain, and fever (≥38°C). Uncommon (may occur with up to 1 in 100 doses): Upper respiratory tract infection, dizziness, other injection site reactions such as hard lump, tingling or numbness, and swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin. Rare (may occur with up to 1 in 1,000 doses): allergic reaction, and fainting sometimes accompanied by shaking or stiffness.
Your doctor may ask you to stay behind for a short time after receiving the vaccine.
NOTE: If you have any unexpected effects while taking Cervarix®, please talk to your doctor.