HPV Vaccine: Fighting Cervical Cancer, One Shot At A Time
Not too many vaccines can fight cancer. Thankfully, the HPV vaccine can! The HPV vaccine has been touted for its anti-cancer properties - in a nutshell: It can fight cervical cancer by preventing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection. (In case you were wondering, yes, that’s the virus linked directly to causing many cases of cervical cancer.)
Last January 25, 2013, I attended HPV Summit 3, the third of a series of conferences dedicated to spreading the word about the one vaccine that can considerably lower deaths related to cervical cancer. You can also read about what happened during HPV Summit 1 and HPV Summit 2.
Okay, I know it sounds boring if you’re not a doctor or a cancer survivor, but think of it this way: Cervical cancer is one of the top causes of cancer in women and cancer is now second in the list of killers, just right next to cardiovascular disease. In other (more morbid) words, you’re quite likely to get cervical cancer – and you’re likely to die of it.
Unless you never have sex, that is. But that’s not something everybody can abstain from for an entire lifetime, yes?
HPV Summit 3: Are HPV Vaccines Too Pricey?
Many countries – including our own – are having second thoughts about supporting HPV vaccination programs because, “HPV vaccines are too expensive.” Taken as they are, perhaps that’s true. But it’s the value, not the price, that we should all be looking at.
For instance, buying a cheap dress at the ukay-ukay can help save you money. But that dress is likely to shrink or fade after one washing, compared to a more expensive dress that has much better tailoring and fabric.
Countries are having second thoughts about supporting HPV vaccination programs because they are
And when it comes to HPV vaccines, the “value” lies in the lives saved. When a woman dies, a family loses a mother, sister, daughter, or wife.
And I’m not just talking about spiritual value here. For instance, the expenses for cancer therapy and a funeral are way more than the price of HPV vaccination – you do the math.
Why HPV Vaccination Can Boost HPV Screening
Professor Margaret Anne Stanley spoke during the 3rd HPV Summit about the “appalling morbidity” we all know as genital warts. These warts are found in – where else? – your private parts, making them an embarrassment to some and an annoying problem that won’t go away to many.
But Prof. Stanley said it better. “Since treatment is usually repeated and it causes scarring, [genital warts are] an appalling morbidity. More appalling is the fact that it causes death.”
“It’s about the value of money, not merely the thought of saving money.”
- Prof. Margaret Stanley
Despite the discomfort and risk for death associated with HPV infection, many women refuse to get screened! “One of the difficulties in getting women to get screened is that they don’t like invasive procedures,” Prof. Stanley explained. (Case in point: Have you had your yearly Pap smear yet?)
Besides, screening has little impact on reducing cervical cancer incidence in women under 30,” she added. So yes, despite an excellent HPV screening program, many young women will still die of cervical cancer.
Given the pitfalls of HPV screening alone in the fight against cervical cancer, many are pushing for an HPV vaccination program, even in the Philippines. And even with blandly modest results in certain studies, HPV vaccination may have more merit than expected.
“We don’t have access to treatment, making screening pointless.”
– Dr. Enriquito Lu
If you have never had a Pap smear before, get one. You can also get your daughters their HPV vaccines. Spread the word about cervical cancer while you’re at it! You can start by sharing this article on HPV Summit 3. And in a few days, check back as I share where you come in regarding the cancer initiative and what you should expect as an advocate of the cancer initiative - including how to manage haters. Who knew HPV vaccination came with controversies?