A breakthrough US-made vaccine for cervical cancer could be available in the city within three months, bringing hope to those at risk of the disease, which kills about 120 Hong Kong women a year. The news comes after a University of Hong Kong survey found public awareness of the human papillomavirus (HPV) as a key cause of cervical cancer is extremely low. The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday licensed the vaccine, Gardasil, for use by girls and women aged nine to 26. It prevents infection by four of the dozens of strains of HPV, the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease. Its maker, Merck & Co, applied for Hong Kong registration in April with the Pharmaceutical Service of the Department of Health, a spokeswoman said yesterday. Approval of an application for registration of a pharmaceutical product is usually made within five months after submission. But the spokeswoman said: 'As the application is still being processed, it is too early to comment whether it will be used by [the department].' Meanwhile, a survey of 262 young women and 293 parents found 95 per cent were unaware that HPV caused cervical cancer. The cervical cancer prevention awareness survey was carried out in April by the Social Sciences Research Centre at HKU and the results were made public yesterday. Cheung Tak-hong, adjunct professor in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes the vaccine could change the future of cervical cancer. 'I think the cost-effectiveness of Pap smears could eventually fade away if the implementation of this vaccine is successful. Hopefully, more vaccines will be introduced which can deal with the different strains of the virus,' he said. Ms Wong, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 28, yesterday stressed the importance of education. 'I never went for regular Pap smears because, at the age of 26, I figured I was too young to get cervical cancer. It was only when my periods became irregular and I started to bleed during intercourse that I went and sought advice.' Now, at 31, she has no uterus, cervix or fallopian tubes. 'Because the cancer was removed in the operation I can look to the future and help to spread the word about cervical cancer and HPV. Young women need to take control by getting regular check-ups and keeping themselves informed.'