Why Get The HPV Vaccine?

22 01 2013

HPV is short for human papillomavirus. About 20 million people in the United States, most in their teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV.

Not only does HPV cause almost all cervical cancers in women, it’s also responsible for other types of cancer.  HPV causes mouth and throat cancer, as well as anal cancer in both women and men.

HPV can cause cancers of the vulva and vagina in women, and cancer of the penis in men. In the United States each year, there are about 18,000 women and 7,000 men affected by HPV-related cancers.

Most of the HPV infections that cause these cancers could be prevented with vaccination.

HPV-related cancers can be devastating, as Jacquelyn, a cancer survivor and mother of two preschoolers, attests.

Soon after her second child was born, Jacquelyn was diagnosed with cervical cancer and needed a total hysterectomy.  “My husband and I had been together for 15 years, and we were planning to have more children—that isn’t going to happen now,” says Jacquelyn.

Although they caught Jacquelyn’s cervical cancer early, she still has medical appointments that take time away from her family, friends and work. “Every time the doctor calls, I hold my breath until I get the results. Cancer is always in the back of my mind.”

HPV vaccines offer the greatest health benefits to individuals who receive all three doses before having any type of sexual activity. That’s why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.

The connection between vaccinating kids now to protect them from cancer later isn’t lost on Jacquelyn.  “I will protect my son and daughter by getting them the HPV vaccine as soon as they each turn 11.  I tell everyone to get their children the HPV vaccine series to protect them from these kinds of cancers.”

HPV vaccines are given in a series of 3 shots over 6 months.  It is very important to complete all 3 shots to get the best protection. More than 46 million doses of HPV vaccine have been given out, and vaccine studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe.

If your son or daughter hasn’t started or finished the HPV vaccine series yet—it’s not too late! Now is a good time to ask their doctor or nurse about vaccines for your preteens and teens. Visit www.cdc.gov/hpv  to learn more about HPV and HPV vaccines.

By the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention





HPV Vaccine and Tweeners

30 04 2012

(Welcome to CDC! Read along as they talk about tweeners and HPV.)

When it comes to their kids, parents are always planning. Healthy dinners. Safe activities.

One plan that’s easy to make could have a tremendous benefit, even saving a life. That’s planning to have preteens vaccinated against HPV, the leading cause of cervical and anal cancers.

“There are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States,” says Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in U.S. women each year. But vaccinating boys and girls against HPV greatly reduces the chances that today’s girls will ever have to face this devastating disease.”

CDC recommends HPV vaccination for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys, as well as for young women ages 13 through 26 and young men ages 13 through 21 who have not yet been vaccinated.

Two HPV vaccines—Cervarix and Gardasil—are available for girls to protect against the HPV types that cause most cervical and anal cancers. Gardasil also protects against the HPV types that cause most genital warts. Gardasil is the only vaccine approved for boys.

Both brands of HPV vaccine are given in three doses (shots) over six months, and protection requires all three doses. “Completing the three-dose HPV vaccine series is very important to ensure protection against HPV-related disease,” adds Dr. Wharton.

While vaccinating against a sexually transmitted virus at age 11 or 12 might seem unnecessary, the preteen years are the best time to vaccinate. “The HPV vaccine only provides protection if it is given before exposure to HPV,” says Dr. Wharton. “Someone can be infected with HPV the very first time they have sexual contact with another person.”

To get the most benefit from HPV vaccination, all three doses must be received before any kind of sexual activity with another person begins.

Atlanta mom Amber Zirkle recognizes the importance of vaccinating her children now for protection they’ll need in the future. Her 11-year-old daughter will get an HPV vaccine this year at her regular check-up. As for getting HPV vaccine for her 16-year-old son, Amber says, “I didn’t know it was available for boys. I’ll talk with the pediatrician about it.” She adds, “Genital warts aren’t something I want my son to deal with.”

Other vaccines recommended specifically for preteens include meningococcal conjugate, which protects against bacterial meningitis, and Tdap, which boosts immunity against pertussis (whooping cough). Everyone age six months and older should get an annual flu vaccine.

To learn more, visit CDC’s teen website or call 800-CDC-INFO.





HPV Vaccine: The Anti-Cancer Vax

15 09 2011

Have you or a loved one ever had an abnormal Pap smear result? If precancerous cells were identified, the cause was almost undoubtedly infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). Almost all cases of cervical cancer arise because of infection with this virus. Yet a vaccine can prevent infection with the strains that most commonly cause cervical cancer.

A vaccine against cancer. It’s true.

For the vaccine to work, though, a woman must have it before HPV infects her. You may find it difficult to look at your daughter, especially a pre-teen daughter, and think of that scenario. But the fact is that even if your daughter avoids all sexual contact until, say, her wedding night, she can still contract HPV from her partner. It happens to be the most common sexually transmitted infection.

About 20 million Americans have an HPV infection, and 6 million people become newly infected every year. Half of the people who are ever sexually active pick up an HPV infection in a lifetime. That means your daughter, even if she waits until her wedding night, has a 1 in 2 chance of contracting the virus. Unless it’s a strain that causes genital warts, HPV usually produces no symptoms, and the infected person doesn’t even know they’ve been infected.

Until the cancer shows up.

And it can show up in more places than the cervix. This virus, you see, favors a certain kind of tissue, one that happens to be present in several parts of you. This tissue, a type of epithelium, is a thin layer of the skin and mucous membranes. It’s available for viral invasion in the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, and the mouth and pharynx. In fact, HPV is poised to replace tobacco as the major cause of oral cancers in the United States.

The virus can even sometimes pass from mother to child, causing recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or warts in the throat that must be removed periodically and can sometimes become cancerous. It strikes about 2000 children each year in the United States.

How does a virus cause cancer? To understand that, you must first understand cancer. You may know that cells reproduce by dividing, and that cancer occurs when cells divide out of control. Behind most cancers is a malfunction in the molecules that tell cells to stop dividing. These molecules operate in a chain reaction of signaling, like a series of well-timed stoplights along a boulevard. If one starts sending an inappropriate “go” signal or fails to send a “stop” signal, the cell divides, making more cells just like it that also lack the right signals. If your body’s immune system doesn’t halt this inappropriate growth, we call it cancer.

The blueprint for building these “stop” molecules is in your genes, in your DNA sequences. As a virus, HPV also requires a blueprint to make more viruses. Viruses use the division machinery of the host cell—in you—to achieve reproduction by stealthily inserting their own DNA blueprint into the host DNA.

Sometimes, when it’s finished with the host, a virus leaves a little bit of its DNA behind. If that leftover DNA is in the middle of the blueprint for a “stop” molecule, the cell won’t even notice. It will use the contaminated instructions to build a molecule, one that no longer functions in stopping cell division. The result can be cancer.

Of the 150 HPV types or strains, about 40 of which pass through sexual contact, two in particular are associated with cancer, types 16 and 18. They are the ones that may persist for years and eventually change the cellular blueprint. The vaccines developed against those two strains are, therefore, anti-cancer vaccines.

Without a successful viral infection, viral DNA can’t disrupt your DNA. That’s what the HPV vaccine achieves against the two strains responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers. Recent high-profile people have made claims about negative effects of this vaccine, claims that have been thoroughly debunked. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as always offers accurate information about the side effects associated with available HPV vaccines.

This achievement against cancer, including prevention of almost 100% of precancerous cervical changes related to types 16 and 18, is important.

Worldwide, a half million women receive a cervical cancer diagnosis each year, and 250,000 women die from it. These women are somebody’s daughter, wife, sister, friend. Women from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of sexual histories.

Women whose precancerous cervical changes are identified in time often still must undergo uncomfortable and sometimes painful procedures to get rid of the precancerous cells. These invasive procedures include cone biopsies that require shots to numb the cervix and removal of a chunk of tissue from it. Cone biopsies carry a risk of causing infertility or miscarriage or preterm delivery. A vaccine for your daughter could prevent it all.

HPV doesn’t care if your daughter has had sex before. It’s equally oblivious to whether the epithelium it infects is in the cervix or in the mouth or pharynx or in an adult or a child. What it does respond to is antibodies that a body makes in response to the vaccine stimulus.

Even if your daughter’s first and only sex partner passes along one of the cancer-associated strains, if she’s been vaccinated, her antibodies will take that virus out cold. It’s a straightforward prevention against a lifetime of worry—and a premature death.

For more info: Facts about the HPV vaccine from the National Cancer Institute

By Emily Willingham

Image courtesy of CDC





Time for a Tune-Up?

17 01 2011

The start of a fresh year is a clean slate, especially when it comes to our health. We’re making resolutions to exercise more, eat a little better, seek more relaxation. It can be a great opportunity to make those appointments that we’ve been putting off. January marks Cervical Health Month,  and it’s a nice reminder to get a check-up, ahem, down there.

PKIDs has several blogs and pods on HPV and cervical cancer if you want to find out what the big deal is, and it’s a pretty big deal.  Any of us can be at risk for STDs or cancer. Learning how to prevent infection is key to staying in control of our bodies.

The HPV vaccine gives us that control. In addition to preventing infection with many strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it helps prevent STDs and anal cancer for both women and men .

There’s a lot of stuff to keep up with in our lives. At the start of a new year, it’s overwhelming!  Taking control of our own health by getting vaccinated to prevent disease is something we can easily do. Let’s make 2011 our healthiest year yet!





Teens, Vaccines, and Media

26 07 2010

How do I communicate with teens? This question hounds most providers as well as parents and teachers. Thanks to excellent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and PEW Research Center, we know some of the answer lies in the latest media trends and technologies.

But what about health information? Most parents have to walk the line between gatekeeping and educating their teens about their own health and wellness. Nowhere is this juggle more apparent than in the realm of teens and vaccines.

According to CDC, teens 18 and under need Tdap, meningococcal, seasonal flu, and HPV vaccines, as well as to stay current with other childhood vaccines.

In 2008, CDC launched a pre-teen vaccine campaign, impressing on caregivers the importance of vaccinations for this age group as well. The host of recommended vaccines protect against diseases such as whooping cough, HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and others.

Reaching Our Teens

Communicating the importance of vaccinations to teens isn’t just a matter of laying out the facts. Programs like GetVaxed, PKIDs teen and young adult site, attempt to reach adolescents using colorful, short, pithy health messages with extra punch and color.

Translating health messages, pithy or not, into action is a science that interests many, especially given the evolution of information-sharing with the onset of online and mobile technologies.  In a subsection of the Internet and American Life Report, Pew Research Center tracks the way teens use technology to communicate and get information.

As teens increasingly turn to texting as their preferred method of communication, parents and health providers would be wise to consider ways to text out health and prevention messages.

According to Pew, using texts to educate teens about STD prevention can be effective, though no data exists currently that addresses text immunization messages.

Given the importance of teen and pre-teen vaccination, it’s clear that parents and immunization educators would benefit from more outreach efforts targeting the favored language of teens (texts, Facebook, and the mobile Web).

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds concludes that in the past few years TV as a messaging medium has largely been replaced by the Internet and mobile technology.

Parents and providers are still the trusted purveyors of immunization information for teens, but we need to adapt how we share that information with them to ensure receipt.

 





HPV Vaccine – Not Just for Girls

14 05 2010

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine came out a few years ago and it’s recommended for routine use in females.

Now, there’s an HPV vaccine for males, and for good reason.  Boys and men can get genital warts as well as oral, penile, anal, and other cancers from HPV infection.  Also, if a male is infected with HPV, he can infect his partner.

Late last year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the vaccine for optional use in males.

So, why is the recommendation optional for males?  ACIP members are not sure if the benefits of vaccinating boys outweigh the costs to do so.

This leaves parents with a recommendation, of sorts, but nothing very clear.

Should you have your boys vaccinated against HPV?

Talk to your son’s healthcare provider. It’s important to get vaccinated prior to one’s first sexual contact, so that’s something to consider as you mull over your choices.

CDC provides some good information about males and HPV infection, if you’d like to start researching the topic a bit more.

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HPV and Pregnancy

14 04 2010

For most women, HPV (human papillomavirus) is an infection that comes and goes without sign or symptom.

For some women, it’s a horrible infection that causes cervical cancer.

Treatments for cervical cancer depend on many variables, including what stage of cancer one has.

Some of these treatments attempt to preserve fertility while maintaining high survival rates. Two such treatments are:

  • Conization – removing abnormal areas of the cervix (also known as a cone biopsy)
  • Trachelectomy – removing part or all of the cervix

These treatments may affect the cervix in such a way that it could be more difficult to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to full term, but they are still considered to be “fertility-preserving therapy” because other procedures are even more likely to affect fertility and pregnancy.

About the only way to prevent HPV infection is to have only one intimate partner during your lifetime, but that partner has to also have only one intimate partner—you. If that sounds unlikely to you, there are vaccines available that can reduce your chances of getting HPV (and therefore cervical cancer)—check with your doctor to see if it’s a good choice for you.

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