What is human papillomavirus infection?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts and cancers such as cervical cancer and tongue cancer. In this article, we will discuss about HPV vaccinations as it can help prevent the spread of the HPV virus. We will also discuss about any potential side effects of HPV vaccination and cost of HPV vaccine.
How do you get HPV infection?
HPV is spread by touch especially sexual contact. Most common ways of transmission include vaginal, anal and oral sex. As HPV infection commonly does not have any symptoms, you may acquire it from your sexual partner without realizing it as your partner does not display any symptoms. HPV can also possibly be transmitted via vertical transmission from mother to infant at birth.
Symptoms of HPV
People with HPV infection is commonly asymptomatic.
In most cases HPV infection is self-resolving, meaning it resolves by itself without any intervention necessary. However, HPV can lead to viral warts or cancer such as cervical cancer.
Regular PAP smear helps to diagnose any cervical cancer early. PAP smear is recommended every 3 to 5 years from the age of 21 for ladies who are sexually active depending on type of PAP smear performed. There is no need for ladies who have never have sexual intercourse to conduct a PAP smear.
Prevention of HPV
The best prevention of acquiring HPV infection is sexual avoidance, avoiding vaginal, oral, anal sex and contact with another person's genitalia. Safe sex can help to prevent transmission of HPV. Use of condoms reduce the risk of HPV transmission and infection.
You can also get vaccinated against HPV infection and encourage your partner to be vaccinated too.
Types of HPV Vaccines available in Singapore
3 types of vaccines are approved for use in Singapore - Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9.
Each vaccine helps protect different HPV strains. All 3 vaccines protect against HPV 16 and 28 subtype that is responsible for up to 70% of cervical cancer formation.
Ladies should be vaccinated between 9 to 25 or 26 years of age depending on brand of vaccine used. The vaccination schedule also vary based on brand of vaccine used and age of patient when vaccination is conducted.
Side effects of HPV Vaccine
HPV vaccination is very safe. Commonly patients only feel slight ache or discomfort in the arm where vaccination was administered. Patient can also experience swelling or redness in the arm where HPV vaccine was injected. Other less common side effects include fever, dizziness, nausea, headache and muscle or joint pain.
It is important to inform the doctor or healthcare professional administering the vaccine if you have any drug or food allergies.
Can I use Medisave to pay for HPV vaccination in Singapore?
- Cost of vaccination differ depending on the choice of vaccine.
- Only Cervarix and Gardasil (4-valent HPV vaccine) are medisave claimable for FEMALE aged 9 to 26 years old ( before 27th birthday)
- Patients can use up to $500 per Medisave account per year under the Medisave500 scheme to pay for HPV immunisation.
- Patients can use their own Medisave or that of their immediate family members such as parents or spouse to pay for their vaccination.
- There is no co-payment required for HPV vaccinations if there are adequate funds in your medisave to be utilised for the year.
Can I use my CHAS Card for HPV vaccination?
HPV2 ( Cervarix) is the only HPV vaccine included in the Subsidised Vaccine List ( SVL) administered at CHAS GP clinic. Eligible Singaporeans need only pay a maximum copayment of $45 and they can utilise medisave500 scheme for the copayment. However discussions are still ongoing between GSK ( manufacturer of cervarix) and the providers before the subsidised cervarix is available for patients.
HPV in men
HPV does not only affect females. Many men who were infected with HPV are asymptomatic. They experience no symptoms at all. However there are some who developed lumps on or around their penis, scrotum or anus. Some strains of HPV cause the above described genital warts.
Some strains of HPV can also cause cancer of the penis, anus as well as oropharyngeal(throat) cancer in men.
Men can undergo HPV vaccination too. However men are unable to utilise Medisave500 for HPV vaccination currently in Singapore. CHAS subsidy for HPV is also not applicable for men.
*Author is a Family Physician of My Family Clinic(Angsana Breeze @ Yishun) at Blk 507 Yishun ave 4. He actively promotes and performs HPV vaccination in his clinic.