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Eighty percent of women will contract the human papillomavirus—more commonly known as HPV—in their lifetime. This sexually transmitted virus can lead to cervical cancer…so why is it stirring up so much controversy?

Doctors say a new vaccine that's on the market can prevent HPV, but the sooner you get the treatment, the better. In fact, many recommend that girls as young as 9 years old should be vaccinated, which is troubling to parents who believe that their children are too young to learn about STDs.

Dr. Savard says parents should educate themselves about the disease before making any decisions. The virus, which spreads through skin-to-skin sexual contact, can cause genital warts; but oftentimes, symptoms take weeks, months or even years to appear. In some cases, someone with HPV may never exhibit symptoms—until cancer cells form. A simple medical test can determine whether you're currently living with this common virus.

Most immune systems can fight off the dangerous strains of this virus on their own, but some people's bodies are unable to prevent it from causing major medical issues, including cancer. Dr. Savard says if every woman has three doses of the vaccine before they've been exposed to the virus, no woman will ever die from cervical cancer again.
FROM: Why I Cut Off My Breasts
Published on March 29, 2007