Cancer Vaccines

Some types of cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be prevented with vaccines.  Providers at MaineHealth are available to answer any questions or address concerns about cancer vaccines.

What are cancer vaccines?

Cancer vaccines are shots that keep certain cancers from growing in the body. They do this by helping  the immune system  fight the specific viruses that cause  cancer. These vaccines  only work if they are given to someone before they are exposed to the  virus. Even when you get these vaccines, it is important to follow your provider’s recommendations for cervical cancer screening and hepatitis B testing. This is because you might have been infected with HPV or HBV without knowing it before getting the vaccine. Also, vaccines aren’t perfect, and screening can help find disease and cancers early.

Approved cancer vaccines

There are two types of  cancer prevention vaccines that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HPV vaccine

HPV vaccine is recommended for all children and it is usually given between ages 11 and 12 years. It is also recommended for young adults with certain risk factors or who did not get the vaccine when they were younger.There are two brands  of HPV vaccine – Gardasil® and Cervarix®.  Three doses of either vaccine are needed for full protection. Cervarix® can only be given to females beginning at age 9 through 26 years. It protects against 2 types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil® can be given to males and females beginning at age 9 through 26 years. It prevents 9 types of HPV and the diseases it causes:

  • Cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females
  • Penile cancer in males
  • Anal cancer in females and males
  • Head and neck cancers in females and males
  • Genital warts in females and males

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B vaccine prevents HBV infection and liver cancer caused by HBV. This vaccine is recommended for all children. The first dose is usually given at birth and other doses are usually given by 6 months of age. It is also recommended for children who did not get it when they were younger and adults with certain risk factors or who want to be protected. There are two brands of hepatitis B vaccine – Engerix-B® and Recombivax HB®Three doses of either are needed for full protection. There are also three combination vaccines that include hepatitis B vaccine – Pediarix®, Comvax®, and Twinrix®. These vaccines also protect against at least one other disease.

Talk with your family medical provider to see which vaccines are right for you and  to be sure you and your family are up-to-date on cancer prevention vaccines and other life-saving vaccines.

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