HPV Vaccine: Fighting Cervical Cancer, One Shot At A Time

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 Stef dela Cruz 2 Comments

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.

HPV Summit 3

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
“too expensive.”

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?

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.


  1. Hi Doc Stef,

    I've been following your blog for a quite a while now and admire the authority you imbue in every post. Anyways, do you know any place where I can avail of affordable HPV vaccines? I want to make sure that both my mother (55 y/o) and older sister (25 y/o) are protected. Also, do you think my mom can still benefit from it despite her age? Thanks Stef and keep up your good work on this blog:>

  2. I believe giving immunization beyond the recommended ages is considered "off-label". But if you want to get the shots, you can ask your trusted gynecologist.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to see "cheap" HPV vaccines, though (which is why the government is having second thoughts about it in the first place). And don't just go for the super cheap ones - they might be fake. If it's too good to be true, it usually is, yes? I'd invest in health if I were you. Why not visit a gynecologist you trust for the shots? :)

    Thanks for dropping by!


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