SINGAPORE - Over 90 per cent of the Secondary 1 female student cohort here has received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine each year since 2019, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
In 2019, schools began offering the HPV vaccine to them as part of the school health vaccination programme, to protect them against cervical cancer.
Dr Chia Yin Nin, a gynaecologist and gynae-oncologist at Gynaecology & Oncology Specialists in Gleneagles Hospital said last Monday (May 9) that HPV can cause genital warts, anal and oropharyngeal cancer, and is also a major cause of cervical cancer.
HPV is sexually transmitted via bodily fluids, and although the main mode of transmission is penetrative sexual intercourse, it can also be transmitted via fondling or petting, and affects both males and female, she said.
"A lot of girls and boys are exposed to the virus in their late teens and early 20s when they start to date," said Dr Chia.
She explained that HPV infection usually comes without any signs or symptoms. In 80 per cent of cases, the virus will go away on its own.
However, if the virus remains in a person's body for 18 months or more, this sets the stage for pre-cancer cell changes to occur in the body - in the case of cervical cancer, in the cervix.
If the condition is detected during this time through an HPV test or a pap smear, the affected cells can be removed relatively simply, without affecting the patient's fertility, and with a 95 per cent cure rate, said Dr Chia.
"The moment we detect we will treat, and we can prevent cancer from happening to her in the future," said Dr Chia.
But if the condition is left untreated and progresses to cervical cancer, symptoms such as bleeding, discharge and abnormal menstruation can occur - even if a patient appears otherwise fit and healthy, she said.
At this point, more drastic methods such as major surgery or radiation treatment will be required, said Dr Chia, adding that this will affect the pat...