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





Throat Cancer and HPV

27 10 2008

When people consider the risks of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, they usually think about cervical cancer or genital warts.  Throat cancer doesn’t even make the radar screen.  Maybe it should.

Researchers are finding that HPV is the cause of a growing number of throat cancer cases in the United States.  In the February, 2008, U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Bernadine Healy laid it out in plain style:

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this rise in oropharyngeal cancer is linked to changing sexual practices and, in particular, ones that involve bathing the throat with HPV-infected fluid.  Increasingly, scientists are implicating HPV-16, and in some cases 18, the same ones that causes cervical cancer.  In 2006, a Swedish study of preserved surgical specimens from excised oropharyngeal cancers going back over 30 years identified HPV-16 in less than a quarter of specimens removed in the 1970s.  By the 1990s, the proportion was 57 percent.  After 2000, it was 68 percent.  In 2007, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found HPV-16 in 72 percent of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States.  Not proof, but based on correlations with sexual behavior, and an abundance of similar findings both here and around the world over the past few years, there is credible if not alarming medical concern that the infection is being acquired through unprotected oral sex.

The Boomer generation led the sexual revolution, not realizing that practicing oral sex was still an exchange of body fluid and therefore risky behavior.  Men and women in their 40s and 50s are starting to see their peers affected by this cancer.  Well, now we know, and we can take steps to stop infection in ourselves and the younger generations.  Stop the infection, stop the cancer. 

Check with your healthcare provider to see what methods of prevention will work best for you – and your loved ones.