March 10, 2015
people knew they could protect themselves or their children from cancer, would
they take action?
(HPV) causes cervical cancer; many people know that. But here’s a surprise: HPV
also causes other increasingly common cancers. The good news is there‘s a
powerful tool that prevents the virus’ spread and the cancers it causes: The
HPV vaccine. It prevents oropharyngeal cancer (a head-neck cancer affecting the
throat and tonsils), which is fast becoming the most common cancer caused by
HPV, striking more men than women. The vaccine also prevents cervical cancer, which
affects only women.
know that almost 100 percent of cervix cancers are caused by HPV, 90 percent of
anal cancers are caused by HPV, and about 70 to 80 percent of oropharyngeal cancers
— which mostly occur in men — are related to HPV,” said Lois M. Ramondetta, MD,
a member of Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Committee on Cancer. “If more
people received the HPV vaccine, we could prevent these cancers by stopping
most harmful strains of HPV cause vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers, in
addition to the other cancers mentioned. In 2014, physicians diagnosed an
estimated 12,360 new cases of cervical cancer, and 14,410 new cases of
oropharyngeal cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer
Society. HPV causes at least 250,000 cases of genital warts annually in males
in addition to 7,500 cancer cases per year.
cancers can kill: More than 9,600 people in the United States died of
HPV-related cancers in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. They often cause significant life-altering discomfort and require
extensive medical treatment. And women can lose their ability to have children.
the most common sexually transmitted infection in the nation. More than half of
sexually active people will have the virus sometime in their lives. “At some
point in your life, you will be exposed to HPV,” said Dr. Ramondetta, a gynecological
oncologist with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston,
who treats patients at Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. “Fortunately,
only an unlucky relatively few will have that virus stick around [and
potentially cause cancer].”
is why doctors say it’s important for young people to get the HPV vaccination
before they are exposed to the HPV virus. The HPV vaccination is primarily recommended
for 11- and 12-year-old girls, though the vaccine is recommended for girls as
young as 9 years old and for any female up through age 26. Boys should get the
shots too: Doctors recommend 11- and 12-year-old boys get the vaccine, though males
9 through 21 years of age, even as old as age 26, might benefit.
“The timing is important because the HPV vaccine is just
like the flu vaccine, you need to get the HPV vaccine before you get exposed to
the virus,” Dr. Ramondetta said. Young girls and boys under age 14 gain most
from the shots because their bodies can benefit most from vaccines, as their
immune systems are most receptive to the protection at that age.
United States lags far behind other countries in vaccinating against HPV. Only
32 percent of Americans have received the HPV vaccine, a rate far below that of
the United Kingdom, which has more than 84 percent; Belgium, 82 percent;
Portugal, 81 percent; Denmark, 79 percent; and Australia, 75 percent.
urge parents to talk with their doctor, get their children vaccinated against
HPV. Why take the chance? A simple vaccine can prevent them from getting a
cancer,” said Dr. Ramondetta.
vaccines are safe and effective, she added. The shots can protect against two
types of HPV that commonly cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, other genital
and anal cancers, and genital warts. And health officials are working on a new
and improved HPV vaccine that will provide even greater protection.
time I see another patient who has an HPV-related cancer, I think, ‘This is
ridiculous, it’s a shame, because this could be prevented,’ ” said Dr.
Ramondetta, an advocate for TMA’s Be Wise—ImmunizeSM vaccination
initiative advisory panel. “This vaccine is really the most amazing thing that
has happened in cancer prevention in a long time. We know what causes HPV and
how to prevent it, yet we’re not taking full advantage.”
published a fact
sheet about the importance of HPV vaccination, in
English and Spanish.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing
more than 48,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin
and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key
objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA actively works
to improve immunization rates in Texas through its Be Wise — Immunize program.
Be Wise works with local communities to give free and low-cost shots to Texans,
and educate people about the importance of vaccination. More than 275,000 shots
have been given to Texas children, adolescents, and adults through the Be Wise
program since 2004.
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Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.
Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
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