Your Cancer Answers: Did You Get Your HPV Vaccine? | Health, medicine and fitness

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Ask: Did you get your HPV vaccine?

Every year more than 300,000 women worldwide die from cervical cancer. Human papillomaviruses are responsible for more than 90% of cervical and anal cancer, 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancer, more than 60% of penile cancer and 70% of oropharyngeal (neck) cancer. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.

The majority of Americans are diagnosed with HPV in their late teens / early 20s. We used to think that the smartest way to vaccinate was to target children (11-12 years old) as they are not yet exposed to HPV. We thought that as we got older, we were likely to be exposed to HPV. So we thought it was unnecessary to vaccinate someone who was probably already exposed. In 2018, the FDA raised the age limit for the HPV vaccine to 45. It is currently believed that the vaccine will cover nine strains of HPV and the chances of a woman being naturally exposed to all nine are very small. Therefore, regardless of HPV exposure, vaccination can reduce the risk of cancer by protecting against the strains we know to cause cancer. As a nurse in oncology, seeing patients in their twenties with HPV-related cancers is tragic and avoidable.

According to a study recently published in the Lancet that followed 13.7 million women for 13 years, the vaccine showed a significant reduction in cancer diagnoses. They found that cervical cancer decreased by 87% in women born since 1995. In fact, according to the WHO, this has been seen in all countries where the vaccine is available.

In the United States alone, the CDC estimates that vaccination against HPV prevents 31,200 cancer diagnoses per year. We consider it a female problem, but the reality is that 25,400 women and 19,900 men here in our country are diagnosed with HPV-related cancer every year. As Benjamin Franklin wisely wrote in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1735, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I was vaccinated when I was 40, and if you can, please join me.

At the start of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, let’s celebrate that we now have the chance to eradicate a gynecological cancer! This can only happen if the HPV vaccine is widely used and parents are educated about the importance of the vaccine to their child’s long-term health. Currently only 42% of our children are receiving this vaccine. Hopefully, over time, awareness will result in eliminating the deaths from this preventable cancer.

Do not take the chance for yourself or your children; Prevention is possible. To learn more about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, ask your doctor or contact our Nurse Navigators at Mission Hope at 805-219-HOPE (4673) with any questions.

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column from Marian Cancer Care invites you to send your questions to Your Cancer Answers at the following email address: [email protected]

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