There are a lot of controversies swirling around Gardasil -- the vaccination against four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. (This week, the vaccine was approved for use against two other types of gynecological cancers.) Should the vaccine be mandatory? Does it really work? Will it kill you?

I'm not a 12-year-old girl (or an immigrant applying for citizenship, for whom the vaccine is now required), so no one can make me get the vaccine, but it turns out I can be easily coerced.

I was at the doctor's office getting injected with typhoid or rabies or one of the six vaccinations and boosters I had to get before my upcoming trip to Ghana, when my physician asked me if I'd been vaccinated against HPV. Already feeling like a human pincushion, I figured, What's one more shot? and said she could add it to the mix.

Click here to find out what happened next.




My doctor explained that the sooner I got vaccinated, the more effective it would be. It is estimated that by the age of 26, many women have already had at least one Gardasil-targeted type of HPV. And while there's no exact number on it, the more sexual partners a woman has had, the more likely she is to have been infected.

Ouch!
My doctor saved Gardasil for last because, as she so delicately put it, "It hurts worse than Yellow Fever." Wait, huh?! Was it too late to back out? I was mid-internal-panic when she stuck me with the needle. It was definitely worse than the Yellow Fever shot -- and possibly more painful than the actual disease.

Officials at Merck & Co. have said the extra sting has to do with the virus-like particles in the shot. Since Gardasil was approved, 180 of the reported 230 patients who fainted after a shot received Gardasil, leading me to believe that I am not the only one who noticed the pain.

The Verdict's Still Out
But pain isn't the worst side effect: A report came out in June that shows there have been 9,749 adverse reactions and 21 deaths possibly due to the vaccination. So far these cases have not been definitively linked to Gardasil, and the CDC says that the majority of the 8 million girls who have received the vaccine have been fine. Still, the "New England Journal of Medicine" is questioning whether the vaccination is any more effective than an annual pap smear for women over 18 who have been sexually active.

Shots Two and Three?
As for me, thanks to Gardasil I am one-third of the way vaccinated against four strands of HPV, $500 poorer, fearing death and other adverse side effects and I may or may not be safer than if I had just continued my annual exams. And I'm wondering whether it was worth it. Was Merck overly aggressive in putting a cancer-fighting vaccine on the market, or are the reports of adverse side effects just hype? Should I go back for rounds two and three or wait to see what more studies will find? Leave a comment to let me know what you think -- and share your experience with Gardasil.

Katie Hull regularly writes about sex news for Lemondrop.

Also on Lemondrop ... Gardasil's the big story in women's health these days; click below to see some truly strange medical treatments from eras past.

Old Tyme Medical Treatments for Women

    Aloe for constipation: Being bound into your corset would be even more difficult if you were bound up. Fortunately, aloe not only heals burns; when ingested, the slimy stuff from inside the leaves works as a laxative (blech).

    Manual stimulation for hysteria: In Victorian ages, hysteria was blamed for everything from anxiety to irritability. But what may actually have drawn women to get treatment was the "manual massage of the vulva by physicians." We'd pay out of pocket for that.

    Paraffin for small boobs: Paraffin, a waxy substance, was injected into flatties in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the stuff would clump, harden and fester. Docs also tried implants made of ivory, glass balls, ground rubber, ox cartilage, wool and polyester before settling on today's saline and silicone.

    Getty Images

    Horse saliva, horny goat weed, etc. for low libido: In Egypt, women drank milk and stallion saliva to cure their low libidos, while the Chinese ingested ginseng, Gingko bilboa, and horny goat weed (seriously!) to get the blood flowing down below.

    caragana25, Flickr

    Weed for cramps: Marijuana was often prescribed as a treatment for menstrual cramps during the 19th century. Reefer was thought to relax tense intestinal muscles and ease the pain of perioding.

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    Assorted animal parts for infertility: In Ancient Egypt, women would go to their dealers for a nice little mixture of honey, animal testicles and powdered placenta ... a great snack to help kick-start the babymaker.

    Tobyotter, Flickr

    Memory Lapses: For memory issues not related to hard nights of drinking, garlic was often prescribed as the cure. Eleanor Roosevelt was said to take three chocolate-covered pills of the stuff every morning to help with her retention.

    AP Images

    Chastity belts for promiscuity: While there is some debate over whether or not these steel underpants even existed, chastity belts are said to have been invented for the wives and girlfriends of knights who wanted their women to stay faithful while they were off fighting dragons or Romans or whatever.

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