Does the cervical cancer vaccine carry any health risks or side effects?

Overall, the effects are usually mild. The most common side effects of both HPV vaccines include soreness at the injection site (the arm), headaches and low-grade fever. Sometimes dizziness or fainting occurs after the injection. Remaining seated for 15 minutes after the injection can reduce the risk of fainting. In addition, Cervarix might also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain.

The CDC and the FDA continue to monitor the vaccines for unusual or severe problems.

Is the cervical cancer vaccine required for school enrollment?

The cervical cancer vaccine — either Gardasil or Cervarix — is part of the routine childhood vaccines schedule. Whether or not a vaccine becomes a school enrollment requirement is decided on a state-by-state basis.

Do women who've received the cervical cancer vaccine still need to have Pap tests?

Yes. The cervical cancer vaccine isn't intended to replace Pap tests. Routine screening for cervical cancer through regular Pap tests remains an essential part of a woman's preventive health care.

What can you do to protect yourself from cervical cancer if you're not in the recommended vaccine age group?

HPV spreads through sexual contact. To protect yourself from HPV, use a condom every time you have sex. In addition, don't smoke. Smoking doubles the risk of cervical cancer.

To detect cervical cancer in the earliest stages, see your health care provider for regular Pap tests. Seek prompt medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer — vaginal bleeding after sex, between periods or after menopause, pelvic pain, or pain during sex.

Feb. 07, 2014 See more In-depth