Author: Rhod Gilbert

Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert was diagnosed with stage four cancer last year. The cancer was in his head and neck and was caused by a virus known as HPV.

HPV virus is often associated with cervical cancer and with good reason. The virus is responsible for over 15% of cases of cervical cancer. However, as Gilbert’s diagnosis proves, HPV can affect anybody.

In his documentary, Rhod Gilbert: A Pain In The Neck For SU2C, the comic spoke about why he’d decided to invite a film crew to watch him experience treatment for his condition and HPV, it seems, was a huge part of the reason.

Gilbert said: “I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to go on stage or TV, but I thought I might be well enough to lie in bed and talk to a documentary team about how ill I was. I thought, ‘It will give me something to do’.

“Also, by that point, I’d found out my cancer had been caused by the HPV virus, something we vaccinate kids for. At every turn, I thought, ‘I can do something here, which might actually change things.’”

Who the HPV vaccine is for
According to the NHS, the HPV vaccine reduces your chances of getting the virus which is spread through skin contact – usually during sex, but not always. The vaccine protects against an increased risk of cervical, mouth, anal, and penile cancer. HPV can also cause genital warts.

The vaccine is recommended for children aged 12-13 years old, but men who have sex with other men are at a higher risk of HPV and are eligible for vaccines up to the age of 45.

The NHS also recommends that “transgender people thought to have the same risk as men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people with HIV” also get the HPV vaccine.

Finally, the NHS states that the only people who aren’t eligible are those who have had serious reactions to the vaccine or ingredients in the vaccine previously.

How to get the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine is injected into the arm. People under 25 only need one dose, people between 25 and 45 usually need two doses, given anywhere between six months and two years apart and people with weakened immune systems need three, ideally within a 12 month period.

For children, this is provided in secondary school. For girls under 25 and boys born after 1 September 2006, this can be provided by a school nurse or GP surgery.

For everybody else, sexual health clinics and HIV clinics offer HPV vaccinations.

Why you should get the HPV vaccine
Since the vaccine has been rolled out, there has been a big drop in young people getting conditions linked to HPV, such as cervical cancer and genital warts.

The NHS states that ”research suggests that over time the HPV vaccine will help save thousands of lives in the UK”.