HPV, or the human papilloma virus, is a very common virus that is unique to humans. When a human is infected with the human papilloma virus, it can cause several potential conditions, depending on the strain of the the virus (there are many different strains of the human papilloma virus). Most strains of the virus just cause warts
- whether these be regular skin warts or genital warts. However, some strains of the virus can infect the cells of the cervix. When these cells are infected, it raised the chances that the cells will develop changes that could make them more likely to turn cancerous down the road.
The HPV vaccine works by protecting the body from infection with the strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Although you are right that it is best to get the HPV vaccine as early as possible, it is still approved for use in women up to 26 years of age. Therefore, I would highly recommend that you have the vaccine, as it should still have some protective benefit for you.
Talk to your primary care doctor
about this issue. They will be able to give you the vaccine and also perform a pap smear screening you for cervical cancer.