You can’t protect yourself against everything. But you can get yourself vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus which can cause many different types of cancer.
What is HPV?
What is HPV?
HPV is a very common virus which usually has no symptoms. People probably won’t even know they are carrying the virus and in most people HPV clears up quickly.
Carrying HPV makes you more likely to develop certain types of cancer. It also means you can pass HPV on to others.
The HPV vaccine is normally delivered to young people in S1 at school – if your immunisation session is not possible due to school closures during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, your local Health Board will reschedule the immunisation date as soon as possible.
HPV is usually spread through intimate sexual contact. Condoms don’t provide complete protection. Getting the vaccine between the ages of 11–13 protects you against future risks.
There may not be immediate symptoms but HPV can lead to cancers such as:
head and neck cancers
cervical cancer (in females)
anogenital cancers (e.g. anal and penile (penis) cancer, cancer of the vagina and vulva)
Head and neck cancers are most common in males, and around 1,250 people are diagnosed each year in Scotland.
After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the most common women’s cancer in the world and kills around 100 women every year in Scotland.
The HPV vaccine also protects you against over 90% of genital wart infections as well as those cancer risks.
The Gardasil HPV vaccine is routinely used in Scotland and is safe for everybody. The vaccine has been given safely to over 80 million people in 84 countries. It meets the high safety standards needed for it to be used in the UK.
The HPV vaccine is normally given as a series of two injections into the upper arm.
Pupils who get their first vaccination dose over the age of 15 will need to have three injections.