Contact: Kate Darden, BHS Vice President, Marketing

Ashley Fulmer, APR
205-322-5646 x 551/


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – January 19, 2016 - According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, with an estimated 4,100 deaths resulting from this type of cancer annually.

Ultimately, almost all cases of cervical cancer can be traced to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is the most common sexually transmitted infection nationwide. The CDC also reports an estimated 14 million new genital HPV infections in the U.S. each year, with half affecting 15- to 24-year-olds.

But there are now certain types of immunizations that can protect girls – and boys – against some HPV infections. In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month (January), Dr. Monjri Shah, gynecologic oncologist at Brookwood Medical Center, is lending her expertise in fighting cervical cancer to families across the Birmingham area, answering critical questions parents ask when contemplating potential immunizations for their children.

Can you explain how HPV vaccines work to prevent infection?
The HPV vaccine contains inactive fragments of different types of HPV, which cause the body to form antibodies against these virus strains. That way, if the body is ever truly exposed to one of the virus types contained in the vaccine, it already has the mechanism to fight off the virus without the risk actual infection. There are several different kinds of HPV vaccines. Cervarix® protects against HPV strains 16 and 18, which are the two most common strains associated with cervical cancer. GARDASIL® Quadrivalent protects against four strains - 16, 18, 6 and 11 (6 and 11 are most commonly associated with genital warts). GARDASIL®9 protects against nine strains (16, 18, 6, 11, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).

At what ages can girls receive vaccinations?
Girls can receive the vaccine between the ages of nine and 26. It is most effective when it is administered before exposure to HPV.

Can boys also receive vaccination? Do these work any different?
Boys should also be vaccinated. The mechanism of action is exactly the same, but the benefit is two-fold. By being protected from HPV infection, not only will they not pass it along to their sexual partners, but their risk of penile cancer and other HPV-related diseases is dramatically lower. They also should be vaccinated between the ages of nine and 26.

Is this an effective preventive method against HPV, and ultimately, cervical cancer?
The HPV vaccine is a highly effective form of prevention against HPV-related diseases including ano-genital warts, cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer and associated dysplasias. Although it may take some time to see the effects, given the natural history of these cancers, it's estimated that if 70 percent of eligible women worldwide received the vaccine, there would be a 63 percent decrease in new cervical cancer patients – and a 67 percent decrease in cervical cancer deaths.

Are there negative side effects, and if so, do the benefits of getting vaccinated ultimately outweigh them?
The side effects of the vaccine are those associated with any vaccination - transient headache, fever, pain and swelling at the injection site, and nausea. Initially, there was some concern that the HPV vaccine was associated with autoimmune or neurologic diseases, but a study looking at over a million adolescents who received the vaccine worldwide did not show any increased association with any serious adverse reaction. I strongly believe that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

What is the most important thing for parents to know about the vaccination? What would be the one statement you would make to a parent who is weighing the decision of having or not having his/her child vaccinated?
It is important to try to get your child vaccinated prior to HPV exposure to derive the most benefit. If a parent is skeptical, they should try to obtain information from reputable sources to help inform them and their personal decision. Cervical cancer is a disease that we see in young women – but it is almost entirely preventable. HPV vaccinations can ultimately help us avoid unnecessary distress, suffering and death.

For more information or to outreach to a Brookwood Medical Center OB/GYN physician regarding vaccinations, please visit or call 205.877.8800 for a physician directory.

About Brookwood Medical Center

Founded in 1973, Brookwood Medical Center is one of the largest private hospitals in Alabama, and a leading provider of advanced medical care to the Homewood community and beyond. Brookwood’s medical staff is comprised of more than 900 privately practicing physicians and its workforce includes more than 2,500 employees and volunteers. Accredited by The Joint Commission, Brookwood Medical Center is a full service acute care hospital, widely recognized for its cardiology, oncology, mental health and orthopedic program. For more information on Brookwood's services, visit call 205.877.8800.

About Baptist Health System

Baptist Health System, a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation, provides healthcare services to communities in the greater Birmingham Alabama area through its equity ownership in a joint venture with Tenet Healthcare. As part of this joint venture, Baptist Health System appoints half of the joint venture's Board of Directors. Additionally, Baptist Health System provides administrative and other support to the Baptist Health Foundation. Baptist Health System is a ministry of the churches of the Birmingham Baptist Association whose representatives elect its Board of Trustees. It was founded in 1922 by a group of local Baptist congregations.


Stay connected to Baptist Health System through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, & Linkedin.